On Feb. 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. 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 1950s, the cattle sheds and two round top buildings were constructed on the grounds. In the 1960s and 1970s, two other metal buildings were put up and the cattle sheds were added. In 1997 a 40-by-100-foot community building was added. These buildings still stand and house the 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 a ticketed event. 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 was a rodeo queen contest. There have also been free drawings and raffles where everything from TV’s, cars, freezers, beef, guns 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 1949. 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. This has became an annual event for McPherson and surrounding counties. This event is held on Sunday of the fair. Through the years, we have seen more entries and a growing number in attendance. Even though there has been more bleachers added to try to accommodate the large attendance, it is standing room only when the demo starts.
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 more than 55 years.