History of the Jerome County Fair and Rodeo
by Linda Helms
It needs to be noted that even though Jerome was founded in 1907, Eden in 1910 and Hazelton in 1911, Jerome County was not in existence until February 8, 1919. Eden and Hazelton were in Minidoka County and Jerome was in Lincoln County.
The first documented fair in Jerome was in 1917. The North Side News advertised: “Wanted, 2000 men and their friends and relatives at the Street Fair and Carnival, Jerome, September 4-8. Three big shows, Merry Go Round, Ferris Wheel. Ten other attraction. Come and Bring the Kiddies.” This was held on Main Street between the North and South Parks. Booths had home-grown produce and homemade foods and “fancy work” crocheting, taming, etc.
Because of the World War, there was no fair in 1918.
Eden had a fair September 15, 16, and 17, 1919. “Only fair to be held on this side of the river that is convenient to attend. As it is largely a Jerome County fair, every resident of the tract is encouraged to attend.” Because Eden and Hazelton were the First Segrega on of the Northside water from the Snake River, it was called First Segrega on Fair. Jerome and Hazelton bands played and collected money for the Salva on Army. Lots of produce including some home-grown sweet potatoes, and fancy work were shown at the fair. There was also a carnival.
The First Jerome County Fair was held at Jerome September 21, 22, 23, 1920. Twelve acres in the west part of Jerome was acquired and temporary buildings and fences were erected. Water and electric power and lights were available. Jerome’s Fair was a week later than the year before because Hazelton held a Harvest Festival on September 16 and 17. The Hazelton Harvest Festival included farm produce, athletic events, carnival, band concert, dancing, movies, a football game with Filer (Filer won) and lots of food. September was chosen because the produce would be better developed and the participants were expecting to garner prizes at the State Fair in Boise the next week after the Jerome Fair. Red Cross sponsored Better Baby Contests: Under one year old, between one year and two years, between two years and three years. Judges were doctors from other communities. First prize was $25 in gold; second prize was “something useful.” All babies entered received a “useful prize.” Proving Jerome County has Better Babies; winning babies were William Shappe, Sadie Iona Butner, Althea Louise James, Lilla Mae Callen, Howard Eugene Brown, Betty Mae Goff, and Doris Holland. These each received the $25 in gold. Jerome Fair also had a band concert, judging of produce and animals, baking contests, canning demonstrations, women’s fancy work, and class projects—essays “Why we need good roads.” The winning entries were carefully preserved to be taken the next week to the State Fair in Boise.
In 1921: Hazelton Harvest Festival was September 15 and 16. Jerome County Fair was September 20, 21, and 22. Included were animal and produce exhibits, women’s fancy work and art displays, foot races and horse racing and auto races on a new half-mile circular track. There were also a baseball game and wrestling matches. Over the next 24 years, the Jerome County Fair was held in mid September.
The first Jerome County Rodeo was September 13, 14, 15, 1945 and was open to all residents of the North Side area. The first Rodeo Queen contest, also in 1945, invited all women horse riders from 14 years of age and older who lived in the designated area. The ladies, with their horses, took part in a contest in front of the judges in the new grandstand at the race track/rodeo arena. A $50 cash prize for the chosen queen and $12.50 cash prizes for each of the two attendants was offered by the Jerome Riding Club. In addition, the rodeo queen received a western cowgirl outfit. The queen and her two attendants took part in the opening feature at the rodeo each night and occupied places of high honor as befitting the queen and her two attendants. It cost nothing to enter and it was to hoped that at least 40 candidates for queen would be present for the judging. It was announced the first Jerome County rodeo queen was Phyllis Claar. The attendants were Mrs. Keith Johansen (the former Miss Barbara Burks) and Wanda Cole (daughter of Mr. & Mrs. Marvin Cole). Other ladies who competed were Virginia Janes, Charlotte Van Riper, Inez Burkhalter, Laura Hansen, Marge Heiss, Nancy Crandall, Marge Titus, Margaret Foster, Mrs. Orwig and Donna Graviet.
Jerome’s first rodeo wound up the three-night performance that Saturday evening in the new fairgrounds arena. Almost 11,000 persons witnessed the performances during the three evenings. Paid attendance totaled just under the $10,000 mark. Rodeo events were bronc riding, bull dogging, bareback riding, Brahma bull riding, and calf roping. The fair was made up by the 4 -H participants. Because part of the fairgrounds buildings were being used as housing for farm laborers, the produce and fancy work parts of the fair were exhibited at the American Legion Hall. The animal judging was held at the fairgrounds.