Frances E. Warren, Governor of Wyoming, appointed Bryant B. Brooks, George Mitchell and Jacob E. Ervay to act in organizing the unorganized County of Natrona in the territory of Wyoming. On April 8, 1890 an election was held for the purpose of electing all County and precinct officers and for locating the County seat. Casper was duly declared the County Seat of the said Natrona County.
Application for the incorporation of the town of Casper was filed April 9, 1909. Proceedings concerning the incorporation of the town of Casper were conducted by the Board of Carbon County Commissioners and the territory of Wyoming during a meeting held at Rawlins June 5, 1909. July 8, 1909 (the second Monday) was set for an election to take place for the purpose of electing a Town Council and other officers.
The following account prepared by Frances Seely Webb former society editor of the Casper Star Tribune describes what appears to be the first fair held in the Casper community.
In 1904 "the new town of Casper", then fifteen years old and a very progressive community, decided the time was right for Wyoming to have a State Fair and Casper wanted it to be here.
A statewide celebration was organized, to be known as the Industrial Convention and all counties in the state were invited to attend and join in all the fun, adding their contribution to the exhibitions to be staged during the fair.
A double arch spanned the intersection of Second and Center and there were arches on Center at First (now Midwest) near the railroad as a welcome to arrivals.
After this most successful venture Casper petitioned Governor Joe Carey and the legislature for the permanent State Fair, offering to erect suitable buildings and maintain them at no cost to the state. Governor Carey gave the Sate Fair to Douglas with a $50,000.00 appropriation".
February 28, 1938 Jim Carey and Brother Corporation conveyed approximately 86.08 acres of the Carey Ranch lands to the City of Casper. December 16, 1941 the City of Casper conveyed these lands to Natrona County with the restriction that these lands be used for the express and exclusive use as a fairgrounds and industrial exposition.
Documented history of the Natrona County Fairgrounds is sketchy at best.
A photo from the Chuck Morrison collection shows a banner across a downtown Casper Street that says "FIRST ANNUAL COUNTY FAIR CELEBRATION
September 23, 24, 25, 1914"
Fairboard Chairman, Gay Milne has a stock certificate issued to James Milne on November 5, 1914 for ten shares of capitol stock in the Natrona County Fair Association.
A Casper Star Tribune press release published July 18, 1947 gives advance notice of the upcoming Central Wyoming Fair & Stock Show scheduled August 19-22, 1947. Members of the parade committee were listed as follows: Guy Engle, General Chairman; Bob Galley, Vice Chairman (publicity); Chuck Morrison, KVOC; Bill Shutts, KFDN; Doug Speas, Tribune Herald; Harry Ritzman, floats; Walt Sheppard prizes; Jerry Dalton, horses and Captain Arthur Datnoff, Beards.
The Casper Star Tribune, February 2, 1978 Column "Looking Back – 30 years ago reports "The County Fairboard has purchased a prefabricated grandstand which will be erected at the new County fairgrounds; west of Casper, according to H. L. Raines Fair Manager. The grandstand will seat 3.060 people and will cost about $16,000.00.
Construction of the present grandstand was completed July 28, 1982. The cost was $1,000,000.00. It has a seating capacity of 4.020.
A letter from Chuck Morrison dated July 19, 1981 says "the first fairboard was established August 19-22, 1947. Board members were Milt Coffman, Boyd Sims, Jesse Cantrell. Coffman recalled the agreement was handled by the County Commissioners.
John Burke recalls that the Natrona County Fairboard was established under the direction of the Natrona County Commissioners. A meeting was held October 8, 1941 and it was determined that plans and arrangements for the 1942 Fair and would get underway.
Fremont Michie, former Natrona County Commissioner, was instrumental in supporting legislation passed to provide funding for County fairs. After the grant of lands and arrangement for Funding provisions were made he first fairboard, comprised of Jeff Cantrell, Harry Yesness and Milt Coffman, acted quickly to make plans for the first fair in 1942. They utilized surplus equipment from the U.S. Army base located at what is currently known as the Natrona County International Airport.
Burke remembers the first rodeo was produced by Leo Cramer of Big Timber, Montana. Later Leo Cramer formed a partnership with Harry Knight and they produced the rodeo at Casper for several years. Harry Knight formed a partnership with Gene Autry for a period of time. Later Knight took on the rodeo producing business himself without a partner.
In 1947 legislation was enacted regarding the creation of boards. In 1949 the Natrona County Commissioners appointed Guy Engle, Robert Grieve, Harry Yessness, A.F. Barrett and James A. Speas as the board of the Natrona County Fair Association.
There is a period of time between 1914 and 1947 when a number of Natrona County citizens have scattered recollections of fair and rodeo activities. Kay Dickensheets recalls that her children exhibited their 4-H vegetables on the third floor of Natrona County High School around 1941 and 1942. Mrs. Dickensheets reported that a lot of the groundwork for the four exhibits were probably a direct result of efforts made by the Natrona County Home Demonstration Agents.
The Morman Church maintained a community garden on the northwest corner of the fairgrounds in the early 1940's.
Fairboard member Don Burgess recalls a grandstand and rodeo grounds near the present location of the Mountain View School. Photographs of bronc riding indicate that rodeo events were conducted at the Burlington Northern Stockyards now the location of a number of commercial businesses.
In 1983 Natrona County purchased the Terrace Drive-In theater grounds from the Schulte family and expanded the fairgrounds to approximately 96 acres. The Agriculture Resource and Learning Center was constructed in 1986 on a portion of this ten acre tract. It provides a beautiful facility for 4-H, Home Extension Services Master Gardeners. Many groups use the ARLC for meetings and training seminars.
Besides the PRCA rodeo during the fair, the Natrona County fairgrounds is the site of the Casper College Rodeo, the High School rodeo, the Wyoming Rodeo Association spring opener and year-end finals. Several horse shows and riding clinics are scheduled through-out the year.
Parimutuel horse racing begins immediately after the fair and continues through Labor Day. Race trainers train horses at the fairgrounds during the winter months.
Year-round activities held at the Central Wyoming Fairgrounds include gun shows, antique shows, RV and boats shows, an AKC Dog Show, craft fairs, the annual Shrine Circus, and Girl Scouts activities and the Annual Ranch City Party.
The Indoor Arena provides a place for many horseman to continue their riding activities throughout the winter months on a daily basis.
There have been six Managers of the Natrona County Fairgrounds since H.L. Rains was appointed in 1947: Bob Latta 1950, Ruth Palmer 1960, Kermit Fleming 1966. Jim Apodaca 1977, and Tom Jones 1984.
The Central Wyoming Fairgrounds operates with six permanent year-round employees. The work force expands to nearly 130 during the Central Wyoming Fair & Rodeo and the Central Wyoming Pari-Mutuel Race Meet.
Economic impact to the community by year-round activities conducted at the fairgrounds is estimated to be over twenty million dollars annually.
The 1988 Central Wyoming Fair and Rodeo was voted the "Cowboy's Choice" by PRCA contestants of the Mountain States Rodeo Circuit.
General admissions for the 1989 Fair and Rodeo were up approximately 8% and grandstand admissions reflected an approximate 10% increase.