POMONA, Calif. — Pictures, films, programs, cookbooks and other items will be part of a new collection of Los Angeles County Fair memorabilia recently donated to Cal Poly Pomona.
The fair has been going since 1922 and celebrates its 100th anniversary this year.
The library says it hopes to set up a booth at the LA County Fair this year and ask fairgoers to share their experiences at the fair. There are plans to add that to the collection in the future.
It will take about 14 months to archive, preserve and digitize a portion of the collection before it will be available to the public. The library says if needed, it will ask the public for any items to help fill any potential gaps in the collection.
Much of the collection is in white banker-like boxes split between two rooms.
Special collections and archives head Katie Richardson noted that the donated collection includes about 200 boxes.
“The collection did double in size from the time we had initially looked at it,” she said.
Richardson added that it was the work of herself and her colleague special collections and archive coordinator, Rob Strauss, to bring the donated collection to the university library.
“This is really like an archivist’s dream,” Richardson said.
There are hundreds of boxes and a lot to go through. But Richardson says this an important opportunity to share a part of the local history here, including why the LA County Fair ended up in Pomona.
“There were some local businessmen in the area, and they were looking to bring prominence to Pomona,” explained Richardson.
She noted that at the time, Pasadena had the Tournament of Roses, and San Bernardino had an orange show. So the group in Pomona was "initially thinking of a valley fair but did some further research and found out there was no county fair."
In 1922, the first LA County Fair was held in Pomona and ran for five days. It’s been an annual event in Pomona ever since. Richardson says there are a lot of items documenting the history of the fair.
"It will really be one of our showcase collections. It will be our largest archival collection too."
The collection will also includes items documenting the food at the fair including cookbooks and ribbons.
Schuyler MacPherson’s great-grandparents sold ice cream at the first fair in 1922, and MacPherson’s Ice Cream has been at the fair every year since. Some of the old signs sit in the fourth-generation owner’s garage in Long Beach.
"Obviously, it’s a business, but it’s very close to my heart, very close to my family," MacPherson said.
MacPherson added that his family has been happy to be part of the fair’s history, while helping create traditions and memories for other families.
"It’s amazing every year how far and how many generations of people you end up seeing at the fair."
Richardson noted that one of the things she's found very interesting about the collection so far is how international it was with the number of media who covered the opening of the fair.
From ribbons from the 1920s to a day planner from one of the original organizers with an entry about Bob Hope’s availability for the fair, Richardson says there is so much to see.
"Photographic materials, there’s slides, negatives, there’s films. So we’re going to be digitizing some old film reels."
Richardson feels this collection will appeal to researchers, students and to everyone in between who is interested in local history.
“For many of us, the fair holds a special place in our hearts. And there really is something for everyone,” she said.
A mix of mementos from an annual tradition that continues on means this collection will continue to grow. Richardson says it’s going to take more than a year to properly preserve the materials, “so be patient with us.”
You can find more information about the Special Collections and Archives here.