The Desert Empire Fair had its beginnings in 1950, having been begun by the Ridgecrest Chamber of Commerce as a Desert Stampede to raise money for summer camp for the children of eastern Kern County.
It progressed to become a real fair, on a vacant lot, with its first "Bigtop" in 1954. The "Bigtop" contained the first agricultural and other exhibits.
In 1957 the "Bigtop" suffered severe wind damage and in 1961 the "Bigtop" was completely destroyed by wind. In the meantime, the rapid growth of community spirit in Ridgecrest was evidenced by its incorporation as a city in 1963.
In 1965 the Desert Empire Fair became independent of the Chamber of Commerce and was thereafter supported by the growing community involvement of the entire Indian Wells Valley.
After 1965 the Fair Board, with the support of the Advisory Council of Clubs, embarked on the purchase of a suitable site for the Fairgrounds. Valiant fundraising efforts resulted in a mortgage burning on July 4, 1967.
With the occupancy of the grounds, enthusiastic volunteers constructed fencing and water lines, graded the land, made the parking lot, and prepared the site for the new "Bigtop."
The Navy Seabees assisted in this gargantuan effort. The Desert Empire Fair is a monument to the unselfish devotion and hard work of the entire valley community.
The rodeo arena, its lighting and bleachers, in fact, all improvements, were made by volunteer labor with donated materials.
Finally when the new "Bigtop" blew down on the opening day of the 1971 Fair, it became obvious that a permanent building was essential. Accordingly, a monumental fund drive was undertaken to raise $25,000 for the down payment on Joshua Hall.
Life memberships sold at $100.00 each helped with this effort.
In December of 1974, a petition to become a part of the State Fair System was accepted in Sacramento and legislation was enacted creating the 53rd Agricultural District encompassing "that portion of Kern County lying east of the Los Angeles Aqueduct."
Since our beginnings, further state funding was acquired to build two additional exhibit buildings, and an agricultural barn.
Many changes to the grounds have been made over the years, such as landscaping with trees and grass, and improvements to the exhibit buildings which make our fairgrounds the full-service hospitality & business facility and five-star entertainment venue that it is today.