Mid-Prairie student turns interest in fair into new historical walking tour

By Jeff Yoder
Posted 7/27/21

A new addition to the Washington County Fair will provide fairgoers with interesting historical information about the fairgrounds for years to come.

Local 4-H member and young historian Caedyn …

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Mid-Prairie student turns interest in fair into new historical walking tour

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A new addition to the Washington County Fair will provide fairgoers with interesting historical information about the fairgrounds for years to come.

Local 4-H member and young historian Caedyn Huston created a historical walking tour of the fairgrounds, with a short presentation for each of the seven stops.

In the Iowa State University Extension office, fairgoers can find the tour brochures, which contain short descriptions of each tour stop along with QR codes that link to informative videos.

Huston, who is going into seventh grade at Mid-Prairie, said that his inspiration for the project was a Washington County history tour led by historian Mike Zahs in May. One of the stops on that tour was the fairgrounds.

“I felt it was really interesting,” Huston said. “And I learned a lot of great things that I had not even known about the [county].”

“I decided that I needed to do something that was similar, but not quite to that scale yet,” Huston explained. “About two weeks before the fair, my dad and I started compiling information. We made a PowerPoint slide for each one of the seven tour stops and created YouTube videos for each one. And then the brochures were the last part. We put in links, QR codes, and titles on all the videos.”

The brochure also lists GPS coordinates for each of the seven tour stops.

The first tour stop is an introduction, and a history of the Washington County Fair. Other stops include the Tall Corn Stalk Sculpture, The CB&Q Train Depot, The Jackson Township Schoolhouses, The Jugenheimer Brewery, The Johnson Polygonal Hog Barn, and the Chautauqua Grounds.

Huston said that learning about the Chautauqua was one of the highlights of the project for him.

The annual gathering of thousands was held between 1903 and 1929 in a grove of trees on the current fairgrounds.

“They had very notorious speakers of the time come in and speak,” Huston said. “It was a Christian, non-denominational gathering.”

Huston said that he already had some experience researching local history with his father, Michael.

“We found that some of the best resources to use are Newspapers.com, and the digital library of the University of Iowa,” Huston said. “We’ve used both of those for some projects I’ve done in the past.”

Huston received positive feedback from fair judges, and both the video construction and community service parts of the project were selected to appear at the Iowa State Fair.

“My number one goal with this Citizenship/Civic Engagement Project was to learn more about my community,” Huston wrote for the historical walking tour brochure. “I love history and our Washington County Fair, so it was a fun project. Once I learned more about the history of our fairgrounds, I wanted to be able to share it with others.”

Visit https://youtu.be/g33YdGpKV38 to view the video for the first stop of the Washington County Fair Historical Walking Tour. For the full experience, make sure to pick up a brochure when you’re back at the fairgrounds for the 2022 Washington County Fair.

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