The Filson Historical Society Digital Projects

The Kentucky State Fair, 1816-2015

The Kentucky State Fair is one of the oldest fairs celebrated in the United States. Its beginning can be traced back to 1816 when Colonel Lewis Sanders of Fayette County, Kentucky (no known relation to Colonel Harland Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken fame) organized the first fair in the Commonwealth. The fair became official in 1902 after being mandated by the Kentucky General Assembly the previous year. It was held at the famed Churchill Downs initially, then rotated throughout various communities until finding a permanent home in Louisville's West End at the newly created Kentucky State Fairgrounds on September 14, 1908. In 1956 the fair was moved to the Kentucky State Fairgrounds and Exposition Center where it remains today. The modern fair is an eleven day event, visited by over 600,000 fairgoers, spread over 520 acres with 1.2 million square feet of indoor exhibition space for amusements, livestock, home and field-work exhibitions. Most notable of these is the World's Championship Horse Show where 2000 elite saddlebreds compete for more than one million dollars' worth of premiums and awards. The following are a few images from The Filson collection that showcase this Kentucky heritage event.


Heather Potter, Curator of Photographs & Prints