the greater gulf state fair
The Greater Gulf State Fairgrounds has a storied past beginning in 1955 when a group of members of the Mobile Junior Chamber of Commerce, now known as the Mobile Jaycees, incorporated the Greater Gulf State Fair. For years Mobile had an annual agricultural fair known as the “Gulf Coast Fair” but it had ceased to exist years before. The Mobile Jaycees began the Greater Gulf State Fair project with the stated purpose: “To promote the civic welfare and betterment of Mobile County, South Alabama, Northwest Florida and Southeast Mississippi, which area collectively is known as the Greater Gulf State, through the promotion and operation of a Greater Gulf State Fair or other like endeavors; to promote, encourage, foster, stimulate and maintain interest in agriculture, labor, industry, recreation, civic affairs, education, scientific research, business, commerce, trade-both foreign and domestic and governmental functions or any other civic function or interest by the exhibition method or otherwise; and to cooperate with other citizens and groups interested in the same or similar objects and purposes”.
The Mobile Jaycees also serves as the support body for the Mobile Azalea Trail and the Alabama Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo. Historically, it had also founded Mobile’s first airport, the Azalea Trail Run, and assisted in the creation of the America’s Junior Miss Program. The Greater Gulf State Fair gained its name in due to a marketing campaign by the Mobile Chamber of Commerce. At the time of the fair’s formation, the Mobile Chamber was marketing Lower Alabama, Lower Mississippi, and the Panhandle of Florida as “The Greater Gulf State”. The Jaycees agreed to work in concert with the Mobile Chamber to form an event for the residents of “The Greater Gulf State”, hence the name, “The Greater Gulf State Fair”.
For years the Greater Gulf Sate Fair was held at Blakeley Island and eventually held at Ladd Stadium. In its early years, the Greater Gulf State Fair’s stage played host to such rising stars in the entertainment world as young Elvis Presley.
Eventually the Greater Gulf State Fair grew to a size where it needed a permanent location to call home. In 1975, the Greater Gulf State Fair purchased its present day 90 acre site at the intersection of Cody Road and Zeigler Boulevard in Mobile entirely with proceeds from the operation of the annual fair. A new chapter in this Jaycee project’s life was created with the purchase and creation of The Greater Gulf State Fairgrounds, affectionately known as The Grounds. The Grounds, improved annually, boast a permanent grandstand capable of handling the requirements of the biggest names in the entertainment industry, indoor facilities with over 2 acres under roof (including multiple ballrooms, an entertainment complex, and the prized multi purpose Hocklander building) capable of holding events of any size, a camping facility with over two hundred permanent sites with power, water and electrical connections, a lighted rodeo arena, covered livestock building, 35 acres of lighted parking, and numerous office, support, restroom, and concession buildings. During the Greater Gulf State Fair’s ten day run, it attracts over 100,000 people to view the exhibits, enjoy the entertainment and ride the midway rides. The economic impact on the community during the Fair is well in excess of four million dollars. Literally hundreds of thousands of dollars are paid directly by the Fair to suppliers of goods and services in Mobile, and tens of thousands of dollars are paid in State County and County of Mobile taxes, license fees and voluntary contributions.
In addition to the continued growth of The Grounds, the Greater Gulf State Fair now boasts miles of paved midway, acres of indoor exhibition areas, and world class Agricultural exhibition facilities. Every year The Grounds turns into “a city unto itself” for 10 days complete with its own power grid, police/medical control center, restaurants, and much more for the annual Greater Gulf State Fair.
The activity on The Grounds is not limited to the 10 days of the annual Greater Gulf State Fair, The Grounds plays host to events of all sizes 365 days a year. The Grounds has the opportunity to host everything from fellow non-profits and their respective events to concerts, balls, and community service projects. In addition, The Grounds and its board, staff, and volunteers put one numerous events from seasonal gun shows to various agricultural events with more variety to come in the up coming year.
The Greater Gulf State Fairgrounds and Greater Gulf State Fair are run by an all-volunteer board of directors, whose members must be members of the Mobile Jaycees. Continuity is assured and the board of directors assisted by a year-round professional staff made up of a Executive Director, Facility Superintendent, Marketing and Business Coordinator, Project Manager, and a three person operations staff, along with a non-policy making body of community volunteers known as the Greater Gulf State Fair Association. The Fair is funded by proceeds from its operations. No governmental payments or grants are received.
From its humble beginning on borrowed land on Blakely Island, the Greater Gulf State Fair has grown to become the largest fair in the State of Alabama. In turn, The Grounds has become an important part of the Greater Gulf State community.