How the Fair Began
The Greater Baton Rouge State Fair began in 1965 when two existing Baton Rouge Jaycee Projects - a Trade Show and a Carnival - were combined. The first fair was held on the Bon Marche parking lot. From there it moved to the old Downtown Airport (now the site of Independence Park), then to the vacant land at the corner of Airline Highway and Florida Boulevard (now Cortana Mall). The current fair location, the 100-acre fairgrounds on Airline Highway, was purchased in 1972 and the first fair on the property was held in 1973. Used for one month of the year to hold the fair, this property is now part of the 150-acre BREC Airline Highway Park/Fairgrounds. The fair was the main fundraising project and for many years was the number one fundraiser in the national Jaycee organization.
Under New Management Since 1985
The Greater Baton Rouge State Fair came under new management in early 1985 when the Baton Rouge Jaycee organization decided they could not continue in the fair business. Former Jaycees who had been heavily involved in past fairs began meeting to discuss the future of the fair.
As a result of these meetings the Greater Baton Rouge State Fair Foundation was formed and took over the management of the fair and the 100-acre fairground property that the Jaycees had purchased. The new group’s first fair was held in 1985 with the Bill Hames Midway providing the rides and games. Unfortunately Hurricane Juan repeatedly visited the Baton Rouge area and as a result the fair was in dire financial difficulty.
In 1986, the fairgrounds property was sold to the Baton Rouge Recreation and Parks Commission (BREC). The agreement called for BREC to pay off the debt acquired from the Jaycees and allowed GBRSF to rent the property each year to produce the fair. This has proven to be a great partnership that benefits the community in many ways. J. H. Martin, who was the first Fair Chairman in 1965, took over as chairman.
In 2005, weather once again played an important part in our fair’s history. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita visited south Louisiana and the Gulf Coast, virtually demolishing everything south of I-10 from Texas all the way east to the Alabama/Florida border. FEMA requested the use of the fairgrounds as a staging area for their equipment used in relief areas. The 2005 fair was cancelled and our thoughts and efforts went to helping our neighbors through tough times.
In 2010, the fair celebrated 25 years with the Fair Foundation. J. H. Martin retired as fair chairman but remained CEO of the Fair Foundation. Cliff Barton was elected chairman of the fair.
Since 1985 the dedicated volunteers of the Greater Baton Rouge State Fair have proved that, with reasonable weather and proper management the fair will continue to be a successful and viable event for the community.