During the First World War the Chamber of Commerce sponsored the first 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.”
The Hawaiʻi 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”.
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.”
The Territorial Fair continued for a number of years. Starting in 1923, golf started at the Fair Grounds, when someone placed a salmon can down as its first hole; by 1931, more holes were built and the fairgrounds were converted to a golf course, instead. The place was renamed the Ala Wai Golf Course.
The United States Junior Chamber of Commerce (the Jaycees) were formed on the continent in 1920. The Jaycees first appeared in Hawaiʻi in 1930 with the chartering of the Honolulu Junior Chamber of Commerce.
In 1939, Jaycee chapters sprouted up in Hilo, Maui, Kauaʻi and Wahiawa. In 1943, an umbrella organization ‘Hawaiʻi Junior Chamber of Commerce’ was formed.
Coinciding with these timeframes, the (senior) Honolulu Chamber and Commerce was conducting the Hawaiian Products Exhibit, first held in 1930.
Hawaiʻi was suffering from the effects of the Depression; the Chamber launched the Hawaiian products exhibit at the old National Guard Armory downtown to boost interest in local goods, 33,000 attended.
For seven years the senior Chamber ran the Show, until 1937, when the Jaycees were looking for a signature fundraising event for their organization. The Chamber passed the responsibilities to the Jaycees; from then, it was a Jaycees event.
A decision was made to include mainland manufactures and agricultural products in 1940, resulting in a significantly larger event. It was held under tents in Kapiʻolani Park.
The next year the Show moved to the corner of Kalākaua Avenue and Kapiʻolani Boulevard. During the war years, the shows were not held. After the war, the first post-war show was held at McKinley High School.
The 1948 show was the first to be named “The 49th State Fair” (the Honolulu Jaycees copyrighted the name;) it was held at Kapiʻolani Park. (The Jaycees were anticipating that Hawai’i would become the 49th state.)
“By this time the country was actively debating the issue of Statehood for Hawaii and Alaska. Most people thought Statehood would be granted first to Hawaii and then to Alaska … we had the 49th State Fair, businesses called 49th State such-and-such …” (George Ariyoshi)
“Statehood was in the air, and everyone expected Hawaii to become the 49th state; hence there was a 49th State record label and a 49th State fair at the old Honolulu stadium.” (Tom Moffatt, Star Revue)
Hawaiʻi’s 1948 “State Fair” won a national award from the National Jaycees who rated it the best project in the field of profit-making conducted by a Jaycee entity in a city of 100,000 or more.
The next year event also won a national Jaycee award (in the field of trade promotion.) The 1949 State Fair was held in warehouses on the Ala Moana Boulevard, EK Fernandez furnished the entertainment.
Then, again, in 1950 the 49th State Fair was selected as the “Outstanding Project of the Year” conducted by Jaycees throughout the nation in cities with populations of 250,000 and more.
In 1952, the 49th State Fair moved to Sand Island.
On January 3, 1959, Alaska became the 49th state – Hawaiʻi’s Fair name changed, again.
Hawaiʻi joined the union on August 21, 1959 – since then it hosts the 50th State Fair.
(“The Territorial Savings and Loan Association said its name would be continued to denote the firm’s ‘age, stability and pre-Statehood background.’” (star-bulletin))
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