In 1916, after a revival of local county fairs, there was discussion to establish a Territorial Fair, with the idea that an event held every 2-3 years could draw from across the Territory to “display the results of their efforts along agricultural lines.” A Fair Commission of Hawaiʻi was formed.
With the US participation in World War I, from April 6, 1917 until the war’s end in November 1918, the Territorial fair was largely focused on “a demonstration in intensive cultivation of staple and special field products and also as a demonstration in food conservation … it was found (that) the islands depended too largely on the mainland for food supplies”
The first Territorial Fair was held during June 10-15, 1918; over a six day period, one hundred and eighteen thousand tickets of admission were sold.
The Army stepped forward and set up a tent city at Kapi‘olani Park for the first fair, providing “almost unlimited space for exhibits, a considerable reduction in charges to merchants, and a material saving in cost of building.” Likewise, the Army and Navy stepped up to present “a big amusement program.”
Sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce, it was a “campaign of education … designed to acquaint our people of Hawaii, as well as those abroad, with our resources and the opportunities which are presented in this Island Territory.”
“For, as we become better acquainted with the possibilities of our Island Home and better understand our opportunities and capabilities … and better be able to take advantage of the many blessings with which Nature has endowed this Cross Roads of the Pacific.”
It also sought to “interdisperse amusement as well as refreshment, in order to secure the greatest measure of success.”
“The Fair presents a splendid business opportunity to the merchants to show their stock and wares; a fine opportunity for the producer to exhibit what our soil has brought forth; and an excellent educational treat to all who would learn more of the land in which we live, as well as a wonderful opportunity to enjoy an unusual program of amusement and entertainment.”
The Fair Commission adopted the slogan “A War Fair Over Here to Back up the Warfare Over There.” The purpose of the first fair was “in the interest of conservation and production and in educating the people of the Territory up to a point where we may be self-sustaining.”
With that initial success, the Chamber sought “A Bigger and Better Fair.”
A second fair was held June 9-14, 1919. “Help Win the War!” was the slogan that made the first Fair a success and it was based on common sense and a real need.
In 1921, the Territorial legislature appropriated funds from the “general revenues of the Territory of Hawaii for the purpose of purchasing and improving land to be used for territorial fair and amusement park purposes.”
A site was selected and “set aside for territorial fair and amusement park purposes that portion of the government lands lying mauka of the proposed Waikiki drainage canal (Ala Wai) and adjacent to Kapahulu road.”
Then field work was undertaken for the Fair Commission in connection with improvements of the fairgrounds and amusement park: polo field and race track; grandstand site was surveyed; two baseball diamonds and two indoor baseball diamonds were staked out.
For a time, Charles Stoffer operated his seaplane “from both Kapiolani Park and later the Territorial Fair Grounds. Several flights were made to Kahului, Maui, and also to Molokai. Schedules were usually set up to coincide with paydays at the plantations.”
The Territorial fair continued for a number of years. However, it’s not clear why the use of the site transitioned from a Fair Grounds to something else – but a transition appears apparent, starting in 1923.
Reportedly, golf started at the Fair Grounds in 1923, when someone placed a salmon can down as its first hole. A year later, three more holes were built for a total of four. By 1931 five more holes were designed and it became a nine-hole course.
It was renamed the Ala Wai Golf Course.
The second nine was added in 1937, and the original clubhouse followed in 1948. In the 1980s, a new water feature was added and the course was also fitted with a new sprinkler system. The driving range was relocated to make room for expansion of the Honolulu Zoo in 1989 and, finally, a new clubhouse was built in 1990.
The state, through the Fair Commission of Hawaiʻi, had jurisdiction of the Ala Wai Golf Course until just after statehood (when the Fair Commission was abolished and the functions and authority relating to the Ala Wai Golf Course was transferred to the City and County of Honolulu. (However, the state continues to own the land today.)
This Territorial Fair discussion reminds me of my final years at University of Hawaiʻi and membership in the Honolulu Jaycees. Back then, the Jaycees operated the 50th State Fair (I served on the fair committee.) In those days, we ran the fair out at Sand Island.
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