The Michigan State Fair

2008 - Boy Roping Plastic Calf

Picture 2 of 18

The Michigan State Fair, proclaimed to be the oldest state fair in the United States, was first held at its permanent home at Woodward and 8 Mile Road in 1905. Prior to that the first official Michigan State Fair was held in 1849 at a different location in Detroit. An effort to give the Fair a permanent home was started by Joseph L. Hudson. Mr. Hudson and three of his associates purchased 135 acres of land east of Woodward between 7 1/2 and 8 Mile Roads. Having no interest in running the fair, Hudson sold the land to the Michigan State Agricultural Society for one dollar in April 1905. Subsequently, additional land was bought to bring the size of the fairgrounds to its present 164 acres.

Over the years the Michigan State Fair’s emphasis shifted from a showplace for prize farm animals, crops, and home canning products to a carnival-like entertainment center.

Besides being the official home for the Michigan State Fair, the fairground was also a venue for other events. The Coliseum, a 5,600 seat multi-purpose arena, hosted the Shrine Circus and several rodeos for many years. Two NASCAR races were also held on the one-mile track at the fairgrounds.

Over time, attendance at the Michigan State Fair declined from a peak of 1.2 million in 1966 to 217,000 in 2009. On October 30, 2009, Governor Jennifer Granholm cut all funding to the Michigan State Fair. Because of declining attendance, lack of other sponsors, and no state funding, 2009 was destined to be the last year for the historic Michigan State Fair. It is only through our thoughts and photographs that we preserve and cherish memories of the past.