National Cattle Congress Fair brings rich history to Waterloo - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

National Cattle Congress Fair brings rich history to Waterloo

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The National Cattle Congress Fair has come a long way from its humble beginnings.

"103 years ago, it started as a small dairy show,” said Jim Koch, the National Cattle Congress’s Co-Director. “And this is what it started to."

Now, with fair food, rides and even a pig race, it’s a very different animal. Koch said that as the attractions have expanded, so does the mass appeal. This year, weather permitting, he estimates there will be between 40,000 and 60,000 attendees.

But it wasn’t always this way – the first year the Cattle Congress was held, in 1910, it was unclear if the gathering would even return to Waterloo. In fact, the event almost moved to Des Moines.

But according to the official website, its future in the Cedar Valley was cemented when local businessmen took responsibility for the show, and the city offered up thousands of dollars in prize money for dairy cattle and butter.

That prize money is reported by the Cattle Congress to be the largest in the U.S. for similar events.

Since then the it has grown, surviving barn fires, torrential rains, and even the Great Depression. In the present, it has become many things, but perhaps most of all: a family outing.

Suzette Walker brought her family all the way from Gilbertville on Thursday.

"We usually see a lot of people that we know and it's close to home,” Walker said. “So might as well spent some time out doing something."

That’s the kind of thing Koch likes to see – people enjoying the festivities.

"We're primetime right now,” he said.

And of course, they’ve stayed true to their roots – even with all the other attractions, there’s still the dairy show.

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