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Fair Park History

The Early Years
The Early Years

A New City Park
A New City Park

The Exposition Years
The Exposition Years

The Post-Centennial Years
Post-Exposition Era

Restoration and Renewal
Restoration & Renewal

The Post-Exposition Years (1938-1984)

October 8, 1938

Founders Statue dedicated.


The "African Dip," a Midway concession, opens. Railton Field, first lighted softball field in Dallas, opened at Fair Park. Ford Exhibit and Humble Hall of History demolished. Dallas Historical Society given custodianship of Hall of State. Famed female golfer "Babe" Didrickson plays in "Fair-Way" miniature golf tournament.

July 1938

Centennial Masonite model home moved from Fair Park to corner of Gaston and Auburn in East Dallas.

November 12, 1939

WRR Radio moves into former Chrysler Bldg. at Fair Park.


Part of old Automobile Building turned into a roller skating rink.

August 1941

Aviation unit of Texas Defense Guard given permission to use Alamo replica at Fair Park.


Dallas Centennial celebration held at Fair Park. Old Livestock Coliseum converted into roller-skating rink. Workman accidentally damages the Woofus, which is afterward placed in storage (and later mysteriously disappears). First “Starlight Operas” begin at the Band Shell. Dallas Garden Center opens in Centennial’s Horticulture Hall.

February 10, 1942

Electrical and Communications Building and adjoining Automobile Building destroyed by fire.


Ciampaglia murals on General Exhibits Building covered with a layer of paint. Fletcher's Corny Dogs sold at State Fair for the first time.

August 1, 1942

New Cotton Bowl Roller Rink opens.


No State Fair due to World War II. 29th Battalion of Texas Defense Guard uses old WPA building. Horticulture building used by Rationing Board. U.S. Army Quartermaster Corps uses General Exhibits Building (present-day Centennial Building) as a repair facility. In 1944-1945 German POWS work there.)


Fletcher’s Corny Dogs are sold at the Summer Midway. Cost: 15 cents.


Theater ’45 uses Old Globe Theater replica.

April 1946

Old Globe Theater replica demolished.

May 23, 1946

Midget Racer Speedway opens at Fair Park.


First postwar State Fair held.


Actress Mary Martin appears at Music Hall in “Annie Get Your Gun.” Magnolia Lounge becomes Margo Jones Theater. 10-year old roller coaster torn down and replaced with new wooden Comet roller coaster, built for $100,000.

October 11, 1947

Eleven persons injured in miniature railway accident.


New 650-foot-long automobile building constructed for $800,000.


“Kiddie Town” becomes a permanent fixture on the Midway. West side of Cotton Bowl “double-decked” to increase seating to 67,431.


East side of Cotton Bowl “double-decked” to increase seating to 75,504 and new team dressing rooms built. Last year (probably) that "Fair-Way" miniature golf course is in operation.


“South Pacific” performed at the Music Hall; enjoys largest gross of any musical staged at State Fair to date.

November 6, 1950

Dallas’ famous hand-carved oak Merry-Go-Round burns down.


New Livestock Pavilion constructed in time for State Fair.

August 31, 1951

Alamo replica built for Texas Centennial Exposition is razed.

October 4, 1952

“Big Tex” debuts at State Fair. Senator and future U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson opens the Fair.


Democratic presidential nominee Adlai Stevenson gives a speech in front of the Hall of State.


“Big Tex’s” jaw is hinged so he can “speak.”


Women’s Building (present-day Grand Place) built. Dallas Power and Light Company installs a clock on former Federal Building along with a large letters identifying the structure as the Electric Building. Actor Yul Brynner appears in "The King and I" at State Fair Music Hall. Cowboy actor Hopalong Cassidy appears at State Fair.

May 15, 1954

Annual Boy Scout Circus held in Cotton Bowl.


During the State Fair, African-American pickets protest fairgrounds segregation. Girl killed in Ferris Wheel accident and two others injured.


Monorail installed in time for State Fair. $400,000 of bond money allocated for Fair Park expansion

October 11, 1956

Elvis Presley performs in the Cotton Bowl.

November 1956

Old Textile and Fine Arts Building demolished.


13-acre parking lot added to Fair Park. Name of State Fair Auditorium changed to State Fair Music Hall. New Garden Center building incorporates old Horticultural Hall.

October 20, 1957

Motion picture actor and future president Ronald Reagan visits State Fair, handing out awards in 2 competitions.


Grandstand and picnic pavilion razed; construction begins on new Livestock Coliseum.


Last season that Fair Park public swimming pool is opened. New Livestock Coliseum opened.

October 9, 1959

Vice-President and future President Richard M. Nixon leads State Fair parade and helps open the Fair. Afterward, with wife Pat, he tours the grounds.


“Flight to the Moon” ride debuts at State Fair.


Fair Park public swimming pool demolished.

September 1961

Motion picture “State Fair,” starring Pat Boone, Ann Margaret, and Tom Ewell, filmed on grounds just prior to State Fair opening.


Vice-President and future President Lyndon B. Johnson acts as State Fair tour guide for Pakistani camel driver.


Underground Civil Defense Headquarters fallout shelter built beneath Science and Health Museum patio.

January 4, 1963

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivers a speech at a poll tax rally held in the State Fair Music Hall.

May 1963

Dept. of Public Safety moves out of Texas Ranger Cabin it had been using as Drivers License office.

August 1963

Texas Ranger cabin demolished.


In the wake of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the "African Dip" concession is renamed "Splash! Splash!"

August-September 1964

Monorail dismantled and “Swiss Sky Ride” erected in its place.


The ashes of pioneer aviator Charles Wiggins are scattered in the Cotton Bowl.


$12.6 billion bond package includes Fair Park improvements.

January 1, 1968

Dedication ceremony for R. L. Thornton statue in front of Hall of State.

October 11, 1970

Berlin Bear statue dedicated.

December 8, 1971

State Fair purchases and takes over operation of Swiss Skyride.


City-owned radio station WRR moves into new $375,000 wing adjacent to the Health and Science Museum (now Science Place II and formerly the Hall of Domestic Science). Television personality Art Linkletter opens State Fair. Actor Clayton Moore (The Lone Ranger) appears at State Fair. Southwestern Historical Wax Museum closes; replaced by Wax World.


During bond-financed capital improvement program, a quarter of a million dollars is allocated for Fair Park improvement.

August 17, 1972

Southern Christian Leadership Conference rally held at Fair Park Band Shell. Speakers include Coretta Scott King, Rev. Ralph Abernathy, and U. S. Senator Barbara Jordan.

Summer 1974

Major renovations to Fair Park Midway. Cotton Bowl Roller Rink torn down.

October 9, 1976

President Gerald Ford participates in State Fair opening day ceremonies at Hall of State.


Texxas World Music Festival held at Cotton Bowl.

October 21, 1979

Swiss Skyride accident results in 1 death and 17 injured fairgoers. Ride is closed down, never to reopen.


Old Mill building, the former occupants of which were American Beauty Flour, Borden’s, Youngblood’s Chicken, and El Chico, becomes Old Mill Inn restaurant.


Dallas voters approve bond package that includes $18 million for Fair Park improvements.


Dallas Museum of Fine Art moves out of building at Fair Park to new location in Downtown Arts District (opens to public January 1984).

October 17, 1983

Gondola from Enterprise ride falls, killing 1 and injuring 16 others.

(This timeline consists of selected dates only, which were derived from a variety of sources.)

Copyright © 2003-2017 by Steven Butler. All rights reserved.