On February 19, 1948, the McPherson County Fair Association was formed, combining the Canton Frolic and the Fair Association. Sam Bolin, resident of Canton, was the first President of the Fair Association and is a former member of the executive board. After meeting with the McPherson Chamber of Commerce and finding that McPherson was not interested in hosting the county fair, a motion was made by the fair association to purchase land north of Canton to be used as the site for the McPherson County Fairgrounds.
During the early years of the fair, most of the fair was held on Main Street in Canton, but the rodeo and some of the exhibits were north of town. As there were no permanent buildings on the fairgrounds, most of the exhibits were housed in tents. Later in the 50s, the cattle sheds and two round top buildings were constructed on the grounds. In the 60s and 70s, two other metal building were put up and the cattle sheds were added. In 1997 a 40’ x 100’ community type building was added. These buildings still stand and are what house the McPherson County Fair today.
In 1954, a buffalo barbecue was started at the fair. At first, the feed was free to the public, then for a short amount of time it was changed to requiring a ticket to a main event at the fair to get a sandwich. After two years, it was switched back to a free barbecue though due to the cost of buffalo the barbecue now serves beef. The men of the Canton Volunteer Fire Department have always cooked the meat. Since 1957, the McPherson County Oil Producers and Beef Producers have been supporting the barbecue.
Through the years, the McPherson County Fair has had many different events to attend. Everything from exhibits (both 4-H and open classes), carnivals, concerts, parades, tractor, and mini rod pulls, pony pulls, midget racers, flea markets, commercial exhibits, dances, ball games, mud volleyball games, horse shows, and a buffalo chip throwing contest. Added in 2003 is a rodeo queen and princess contest. There have also been free drawings and raffles where everything from TV’s, cars, freezers, beef, and saddles were given away. Two of the biggest main events at the fair are the rodeo and the demolition derby. There has been a rodeo at the fair since 1959. Along with the rodeo there have been calf, pig, and chicken scrambles for the kids and a wild cow ride and steer dressing for the adults. There were also years where there was a rodeo queen.
In 1982 the first demolition derby was started. In 2003, the McPherson County Fair Association hosted its 21st annual demo derby for McPherson and surrounding communities. This event is held on the last Sunday of the fair. Through the years, we have seen more entries and a growing number in attendance.
Other significant years of importance are in 1994 when the 50’ x 100’ Exhibit Building was added. In 2008 the 50’ x 50' Concession/Restroom building was completed and then finally in 2015 the 80’x 100’ Bradbury Show Arena was finalized to commemorate Diane Toews.
In 2020, many events were canceled throughout the state and county. The McPherson County 4-H and Open Fair continued on. There were events that were cancelled such as the pedal tractor pull, the free beef barbecue, the ranch rodeo and some of the 4-H classes were conducted virtually. The rodeo’s, demo derby, parade and all livestock judging continued as planned.
Even with all of this, it is still the people of McPherson County and the town of Canton with their hard work, long hours and dedication that have kept the McPherson County Fair going for 73 years.