An advisory committee formed in 2020 to consider moving the Western Idaho Fairgrounds from its location in Garden City. This isn’t a new idea. A similar group popped up in 1963 when it became clear that the Western Idaho Fairgrounds would need to find a new home. Spoiler alert: The one they found was in Garden City at its present location.
The fair had operated at its Fairview Avenue location since 1916. In case you ever wondered where Fairview Avenue got its name, you need wonder no more. The fairgrounds lay between Fairview Avenue on the north and Irving Street on the south. Orchard Street was the eastern boundary and Curtis Road bordered the fairgrounds on the west.
If this all seems impossible because of that multi-lane interstate highway spur running through the middle of it, you’ve hit on the reason for the move. The Idaho Transportation Department carved out a lot of dirt diagonally through the fairgrounds property, dropping the elevation of the highway well below grade (see graphic below).
Although moving the fairgrounds was an obvious need in 1963, the fair didn’t open at its current Garden City site until 1967. The move was delayed a bit because the savvy City of Boise annexed the old fairgrounds property in 1966, certain that values would go up and services would be needed. Overlaying city zoning on the property ruffled the feathers of some potential developers, but the annexation went through.
The fair became The Western Idaho Fair along with the move in 1967. Previously it had billed itself as The Western Idaho State Fair, though it had no affiliation with the state. The new site was 235 acres, compared with the 45-acre site along Fairview. That gave the county room to expand with parking for 6,000 cars. The Exposition Building made its debut in 1967, allowing for two acres of indoor exhibits.
The new fairgrounds generated many millions in economic activity and continues to do so today. It will likely be an economic engine for years into to the future, wherever it is.
Speaking of Idaho history posts are copyright © 2020 by Rick Just.