Did you know the first Cass County Fair used to be held in the Plattsmouth area? The Cass County Agricultural Association was organized August 30th in 1856. The officers at the time were H.C. Wolph, William H. Davis and Timothy Gaskill. 57 other members formed the first Ag Society in Cass County.
Interesting fairs were held in Rock Bluff in 1856 and 1857. Although, the Civil War caused a lapse in fair activities, it was reorganized in 1896. Various grounds were used for fair activities as the Association did not own any ground at the time. The fair grounds were held at the Plattsmouth Driving Park Association grounds located just south and east of Lincoln Avenue.
The 15th Exhibition of the Agricultural Society in 1881 offered and paid premiums on cattle and other livestock along with horticultural products, strutting peacocks, horse and bicycle racing and a ½ mile race track completed with a grandstand. Horses were in great demand at that time.
Once again, interest decreased but in 1921, another reorganization was attempted. A group bought the buildings formerly occupied by Jameson Lumberyard in Weeping Water. The existing buildings were in poor repair but the cooperative spirit of Cass County came to life! Men from country-wide came to lend a hand. Fred Carstens from Avoca arrived with several men, Oscar Domingo, John Rauth and Henry Ragoos came from each of their communities and the Pollards from Nehawka joined in. The fairgrounds at Weeping Water were established and used for the first time in 1930. A new building, meant to house swine and sheep entries was completed in 1933.
A $52,000 WPA grant was received in 1938 to build a new concrete auditorium on the main street of Weeping Water. That building became the centerpiece for the Cass County fair for many years.
Extension Clubs and 4-H Clubs continued to grow and a grand County Fair once more showcased the finest exhibits presented by 4-H members and proud farmers.
For many, many years, the main street of Weeping Water became a temporary fantasy place where Ferris wheels, merry-go-rounds and games of chance transformed the normally slow-paced blocks into a bustling, crowd filled area of fun for a few days. For children, it was a time of wonder.
The fair was a tradition, a part of Weeping Water history.
However, forward thinking, younger people wanted to move the fair to the country. More tradition minded people said, “ It has always been here, it has to stay here.”
But, reason and a genuine desire to make the best even better prevailed. Many informative talks were given by young men with a vision of what the Cass County Fair could become—such as Herb Kraeger and others changed the mindset of the county. A new location for the Cass County Fairgrounds was on the way to becoming reality.
Donations were given and Richard Tritsch was chosen to head a countywide campaign to raise funds to acquire land for a new fairground. Some donations had already been given. A “kick-off” banquet was held near Plattsmouth to raise more money.
A perfect location for a fair was available right where the Cass County Fairgrounds is currently located. Forty acres of farm ground, on a corner, bordered by two hard-surfaced roads and located just three miles north of Weeping Water at the intersection of old Hwy 50 and Highway 1.
The “new” fairgrounds became the official Centennial project by the Cass County Centennial Committee.
Spring and summer of 1967 brought busy days for the Fair Board Members, 4-H leaders and many other interested people from the county and companies such as Northern Natural Gas Co. and Omaha Public Power District. Those companies were invaluable in assisting with the design and layout of the fairgrounds.
Local businesses have been generous supporters of the fair over the past 150 years.
The fair board members in 1967 were Roger Wehrbein, Malcolm Pollard, Lawrence Gregg, Mell Todd Jr., Sterling Ingwerson, DeForest Brown, Walt Patton, Herb Kraeger and Merle Buell. It took a lot of cooperation from fair board members and families around the area to get the fairgrounds ready for the first fair in the “new” location. Days of hard labor turned into weeks and months at those 40 acres near Weeping Water. Mothers and 4-H daughters provided meals and lunch for the workers.
Each of the years since that 1967 beginning has brought improvements to the Cass County Fair. AkSarBen contributed funds over the years that helped tremendously. Numerous men and women have donated hundreds of individual hours to serve and work on the Fair Board in the past 150 years.
Cass County is one of the only “free” fairs in Nebraska. All entertainment and activities are provided at no cost to fairgoers.
The current members serving on the Fair Board that help to provide this fantastic venue for all to enjoy are: Mark Rathe, Gary Sickmann, Kevin Albert, Carol Bley, Scott Platt, Scott Lubben, Dennis Heim, Duane Uhe, Josiah Grahman, Steve Hauschild, Susan Platt, Miki Bruns and Meggan Roeber.
Many fairboard members, 4-H leaders and members, merchants, and volunteers who help make our fair great are members of multi generational families who have made Cass County a great place to live and work for well over 100 years!