Sarasota County Agricultural Fair
Markers: Sarasota History
Sarasota County was formed in 1921, a year that coincided with the developing Florida Land Boom. Community leaders decided to call attention to the advantages of visiting and living in Sarasota by establishing a county fair and bringing a major league baseball team to town for spring training. Calvin and Martha Payne provided 60 acres of land "for fairground and other park purposes" at the low price of $18,000. In response to a call by Mayor E. J. Bacon for a community work day, citizens constructed a fair building and baseball field at the new Payne Park in the fall of 1923.
Sponsored by the Sarasota County Chamber of Commerce, the Sarasota County Fair Association was formed on March 30, 1923. The first Sarasota County Fair opened on January 22, 1924 at the new fairground. Extensive exhibits, a rodeo show, airplane stunts, horse races, parades, and competitions attracted fair-goers.
On January 26, 1925, the Sarasota County Fair Association opened the county fair to the largest opening day attendance on record in the state of Florida, more than 5,000 people. Two permanent buildings and a grandstand showcased the fair events at the new site. Two years later, March 1927, The Fair Association deeded to John Ringling all of its holdings, including the buildings. Sarasota thereby became the official "home" of Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus.
Left without a permanent fairground, in 1935 the Sarasota Fair Association began holding fairs in tents at various locations about the city. No fairs were held during World War II.
Since 1948, the Sarasota County Agricultural Fair Association, Inc. has held fairs at 3000 Ringling Boulevard on the property deeded to the Association by the County. In 1956 the Jaycees gave up sponsorship of the fair, a role they had inherited from the Chamber of Commerce. After that, the fair has been produced solely by the Fair Association, the board of which is composed of 25 members from various organizations and members at large. The purpose of the Association is to promote and exhibit agriculture in Sarasota County.
Dedicated in 1997 by the Sarasota County Historical Commission