The first organized fair was held in Auburn in 1889 and continued annually until 1902. Horse races were a major fair attraction at that time. The only evidence of the existence of those early fairs is that the street leading to the recreation park near the present location of the fairgrounds is still called “Racetrack Street”. As gambling fell into disfavor with “civilized” Californians in the early 1900’s, fair activities disappeared between 1903 and 1935.
When the California Legislature made funding available for the development of district agricultural fairs in the mid-1930’s, local activists went to work. In 1936, Vernon McCann lead a grass roots movement charged with the formation of the 20th District Agricultural Association. Because of his tireless efforts, Mr. McCann has been called the “Father of the Auburn District Fair”. A fair in Auburn has been produced annually since that time, with the exception of the war years in the 1940’s.
Traditionally one of the largest and most anticipated events in Placer County, the fair enjoys tremendous support from the community. In the 1960’s, when the State faced tough financial times, it was proposed that some of the less financially secure fairs be closed. The Auburn District Fair was one of the fairs targeted in that action. The community rallied around their fairgrounds, contacting legislators and petitioning the Governor’s office to maintain the facility in Auburn. Based on this support, Governor Reagan and his staff removed the Auburn District Fair from the closure list. At a ceremony held at the fairgrounds in 1970, Governor Ronald Reagan proclaimed that the Auburn District Fair was “The Little Fair That Wouldn’t Die.” The Auburn District Fair became the Gold Country Fair in 1977.