The Fair is festival that brings this community together

For well over a century the Fair has marked the end of harvest and provided an opportunity to catch up with old friends.

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Walla Walla has a great many community activities and festivals, but none is more anticipated and revered than the Fair.

The Walla Walla Fair & Frontier Days kicks off today with the concert featuring three acts -- The Band Perry, LoCash Cowboys and Joey+Rory. The show is always popular and sets the tone of the five-day fair.

The demolition derby takes over the arena on Thursday and it's more than popular -- it's wildly popular (with an emphasis on wild). When those cars start pounding into each other -- cars driven by your friends and neighbors -- the full house at the arena will go crazy.

And then on Friday, Saturday and Sunday it's time for the rodeo. Some of the best rodeo performers in America make their way to Southeastern Washington for what is considered one of the top rodeos.

Unfortunately, horse racing won't be on the agenda this year. In February, the state Horse Racing Commission denied most race dates in Eastern Washington citing a lack of funds available for racing. The bulk of the money used to sustain operations at smaller tracks such as Walla Walla comes from a tax on wagering on horse racing, which has been down. It might be possible to restore horse racing next year if a private, alternative funding source can be found.

Nevertheless, the Fair will go on pretty much as usual.

The fact of the matter is that the heart and soul of the Fair is people. This is the time of year we get a chance to catch up with a lot of folks we know.

The Fair brings the community together. And it has been doing so for well over a century.

The Fair is the oldest in the state of Washington.

The Fair's roots date back to 1863 when a horse track was established north of town, according the Fair website (wallawallafairgrounds.com).

In 1866, the Walla Walla Agricultural Society staged a large agricultural and industrial exposition to showcase the Valley's crops and the latest farming methods. Since then the event has continued under a variety of different names and organizations.

In 1870, the event became the Fair of Washington Territory Agricultural, Manufacturing and Art Fostering Society.

In 1874, it became the Walla Walla County Agricultural Society event. Then in 1886 the name was changed to the Walla Walla Consolidated Agricultural Society.

The event continued in 1903, under the new name, Walla Walla County Fair Association.

In 1936 the name was changed to Southeastern Washington Fair. Two years later Frontier Days was added to the name.

In 1992 the name was changed to Walla Walla Frontier Days and four years later the moniker became what it is today -- the Walla Walla Fair & Frontier Days.

But to most people it is simply the Fair.

The Fair is a little different each and every year and those who visit garner new memories.

The 2011 version of the Fair kicks off tonight.

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