The 80-acre site in the center of Topeka now known as the Kansas Expocentre has a long history of use for activities related to agriculture, farming, exhibitions, education and entertainment.
The earliest recorded event on this site dates back to 1871. A small, local fair quickly grew to be the largest in the state. Just nine years after its inception it became known as the Kansas State Fair, featuring a wide variety of exhibitions. Fairgoers saw the newest farm equipment and the best agricultural exhibits in the state, as well as the finest livestock. The fair included a variety of entertainment, ranging from horse races and saloons to opera houses and fine arts displays. In 1879, some of the fair buildings were used to house hundreds of ex-slaves during the "Exoduster" movement westward through Topeka.
During the last decades of the 19th century the original grandstand was erected. However, it was not until 1909 that funds were appropriated for the building of permanent structures.
In 1913 a political battle erupted which resulted in the transfer of the official state fair to Hutchinson. Undaunted, members of the fair board proposed that Topeka sponsor a new exhibition called the Kansas Free Fair, which opened in 1915. By 1917 the free fair was operating at a profit and was able to erect a new grandstand, permanent livestock buildings and pony barns.
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