The North Idaho State Fair celebrates 100 years By Taylor Shillam | Photo courtesy of North Idaho Fair
This August, the North Idaho State Fair salutes to a century, promising more to see and do as it celebrates 100 years of classic fair fun.
The first North Idaho State Fair was held on September 29, 1922. Now an award-winning fair based in Coeur d’Alene, the fair has held strong to its values of local agriculture, talent, youth education, and family friendly entertainment.
“Every year, we try to keep a really good combination of keeping our traditional favorites and adding some new flair,” said Alexcia Jordan, general manager for the North Idaho State Fair. “We try to keep it interesting so you don’t always see the same thing but can still count on seeing your favorites.”
Jordan looks forward to a “really good combination” of those factors this year: the traditional staples of fair food, exhibits and entertainment, and exhibits, blended with new, exciting elements to memorably ring in 100 years. “We’ve worked really hard with our programming,” she said.
“We kick off the fair on the 19th, with a grand opening ceremony that anyone is invited to attend,” shared Jordan. The ceremony will take place at 4pm, with the fair itself opening at 2pm that day.
Music is an intrinsic piece of fair entertainment, and this year, musical artists will take the stage three nights in a row for the Party in the Dirt Concert Series at Findlay Arena. Traditionally, the concert series has been two nights long. This year, it’s scheduled for August 22 through 24, featuring platinum recording artist and singer-songwriter Jordan Davis, Grammy-nominated Christian rock quartet Skillet, and popular rock band the All-American Rejects.
Additional live entertainment will include a new show this year, Big Air at the Fair, featuring X Games medalists performing “crazy tricks,” including flips on snowmobiles, dirt bikes and four-wheelers.
“If you’re an adrenaline junkie, that show is for you,” Jordan said.
Big Air at the Fair will bring its high-flying, family friendly fun to Findlay Arena on August 19. Monster truck shows are scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, followed by the Concert Series, Xtreme Bulls on Thursday night, and ending with the ever-popular Gem State Stampede PRCA Rodeo, which is often a sold-out event.
“On Sunday, we do two shows, a matinee rodeo and demo derby at 6:30pm,” Jordan said. “Those last five shows always sell out before that day. If anyone wants to come, it’s critical to buy tickets early, and buy online.”
The fair’s Salute to a Century theme will be continuously celebrated throughout its run, with fun elements like Decade Days that will highlight music from each decade, starting with the 1920s and working through to current popular music.
For its milestone year, the fair is offering commemorative 100th Anniversary coins, including a silver-plated souvenir coin and a 24-carat gold-plated coin, for sale on the fair website. “We also have some fair and rodeo gear available,” Jordan said.
One of the top additions this year is the introduction of the Golden Ticket. “It’s an exciting new program that offers lifetime admission to the fair,” Jordan said.
All proceeds from this year’s Golden Ticket sales will go toward a new, larger livestock barn at the Kootenai County Fairgrounds, a need recognized by the fair board.
“Our livestock programs have grown exponentially, so we’re down on space,” Jordan said. After years of limited space for livestock programs, the fair looks forward to the introduction of the Golden Tickets serving a special, unique purpose that will pave the way for the next 100 years of 4-H and FFA programs.
Jordan herself has been working with the fair since February of 2015. The livestock is one of many of the functioning pieces she appreciates about the event.
“The competitive exhibit program is the most traditional piece of what fairs are today. It’s why fairs got started—showing your livestock, all of those things that we offer premiums for,” she said. "It’s a fun little way to, as a person who is crafty or creative, have the opportunity to showcase your talent and earn back accolades—ribbons, prize money, whatever that might be.”
Beyond the opportunities to showcase local talent, Jordan is driven by the value the fair brings to the community.
“The best feeling in the world is stepping back and watching people enjoy the work that we put in to put it all together,” Jordan said. “Watching people enjoy, smile, laugh, be together with friends and family, whatever it is that brings them to the fair, is just a beautiful thing when you know you’re helping to create memories for others and bringing smiles to people’s faces. That’s my purpose.”
The North Idaho State Fair has now brought that purpose to life for a century, and everyone's invited.
“We’ll be here for 10 days of fun to salute a century,” Jordan said. “Skip the lines and buy online—it’s the fastest and most convenient for everyone!”
Tickets are now available online at NISFair.fun.