The Ozark Empire Fair started in the early 1900's as a traveling display of area crafts and handwork. The Fair had no permanent home but was held in various locations within the Springfield city limits. For the last part of the 1920's and early 1930's, a location around what is now Pickwick and Grand Streets was used.
The need for a permanent location was evident, and a group of local businessmen, headed by Louis Reps, organized to locate and establish a permanent headquarters. This research started in the early 1930's.
A suitable location was found adjacent to the Zoo grounds and encompassing the city's racetrack and grandstand. This was ideal because of the large amount of acreage and beautiful tree-laden hills. The racetrack, although somewhat primitive, was suitable for the grandstand spectaculars that were planned for Fairs to come.
The land was already owned by the Springfield Park Department and, as soon as an approval was given by that organization, the formational committee proposed an ¼-mill tax levy that would go for the improvements needed to the grounds. An issuance of stocks was ordered, and stock certificates were sold to investors at ten dollars per share. This, along with many special gifts, provided the working capital for the first years of the Fair.
1936 was the organizing year for the Ozark Empire District Free Fair. The pre-organizational committee was disbanded, and Fair administrators were elected to permanent positions. Those elected were: H. Frank Fellows, President; W. P. Keltner, Vice President; Tom Watkins, Sr., Treasurer; Edwin W. Watts, Executive Secretary and Acting Fair Manager. Directors for the Fair included Louis Reps, R. W. Fugitt, Sumner Gurley, John T. Wodruff, W. L. Cowden, Edson K. Bixby, Lawrence Rush, and R. L. McDonald.
It was the responsibility of this group to draw up the charter for The Green County Agricultural and Mechanical Society of Springfield, Missouri. The charter was filed with the city on July 6, 1937. This charter stated that the purpose of the organization would be to promote and encourage advancements and improvements in manufacture, agriculture, horticulture, poultry, dairying, raising of livestock, and products of domestic industry. To accomplish this purpose, the organization was authorized to establish and maintain fairs and exhibitions for the exhibit of livestock, agricultural, horticultural, mineral, industrial, and mechanical products and to hold other events desirable for the amusement and pleasure of persons visiting fairs and exhibitions.
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