In 1935, John E. Frenkel Sr. was the City Clerk for the City of Pensacola and the City permitting agent. At the request of Mr. Whittie Weis of Royal American Shows, he began the Pensacola Interstate Fair. The Royal American, a railroad carnival that moved from location to location by rail, was the largest carnival in the United States.
Originally, the Kiwanis Club was scheduled to put on the first fair but canceled at the last moment. Mr. Weis, knowing that Mr. Frenkel had some experience in promotion and an exceptionally good relationship with many good citizens of Pensacola and Escambia County, asked him to assemble a group of citizens who would be interested in putting on the first Mardi Gras and other local events. He also started the first radio station in Pensacola, WCOA (Wonderful City Of Advantages). Because of his expertise in promoting this venture, he was well-equipped with the knowledge to take on the fair.
The first Fair (1935) was held at Cervantes Street and Pace Boulevard. From there it moved to the corner of Garden Street and Pace Boulevard. In 1940, the Fair purchased its first permanent location on Pottery Plant Road, later known as Fairfield Drive.
Then in 1942, the Fair was reorganized as a non-profit organization. Its charter was locally incorporated by the board of county commissioners and verified by County Judge Fabasinski. The Fair was not incorporated through the State of Florida.
Vintage Photos appear courtesy of the Pensacola Historical Society, A Branch of West Florida Historic Preservation, Inc.
The Fair progressed for over 20 years at the Fairfield Drive location until that property was sold for a local development. In 1968, the Fair purchased the piece of property on Highway 90 (6655 Mobile Highway). The fairgound was built from the ground up and the first Fair was held at this location in 1969. The Fair now owns over 170 acres of land at that site.
John E. Frenkel Jr. joined the Fair in July of 1963 as Assistant General Manager, Secretary, and Treasurer. He helped develop the Fair as the years passed and became the General Manager, Secretary, and Treasurer in 1975. During those years he also served as City Councilman from 1967 through 1977 and County Commissioner from 1978 through 1982.
The Fair began with John E. Frenkel Sr., his wife Lillian, and 30 fair members. Over the years, it has become one of the finest and largest fairs in the United States with a staff of eight and more than 400 volunteers. Many volunteers are local clubs and individuals who serve to showcase a wonderful array of exhibits in six permanent, climate-controlled, exhibit buildings.
There is nothing like a Fair. It brings to Pensacola a stimulating, satisfying, stirring and sparkling celebration of education, entertainment and information. The Pensacola Interstate Fair receives praise locally and throughout the country. We are eminently proud to be a part of the economy and growth of Pensacola year after year…and proud to say, “The Fair is Good For Pensacola.”
The members of the Pensacola Interstate Fair wish to extend their sincere and lasting appreciation to all those people and organizations who have contributed so much, labored so hard, and and shown their interest year after year. The result is the Fair’s present status and position: firmly established as a part of Pensacola’s community life and business.