An expansion of the award-winning Big Fresno Fair Museum, the Fresno County Historical Museum showcases the broader history of Fresno County, providing a place for future generations to learn about and see diverse and rich history of years past.
As the Fair looks to be a reflection of its community, the Fresno County Historical Museum looks to reflect all aspects of Fresno County’s rich history. One of the biggest capital improvement projects at the Fresno Fairgrounds in recent years, the $3.2 million, 14,000 sq. ft. two-story building features 7,000 sq. ft. of display space, showcasing everything from public safety and military memorabilia to agricultural and sports history, and much more.
The ground floor of the Fresno County Historical Museum, which has roll up doors to accommodate large pieces of memorabilia like tractors, cars and wagons, features both permanent and temporary displays from the Fresno Athletic Hall of Fame, the late Blackie Gejeian, the Fresno Police Department, the Fresno Fire Department, the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office, the Fresno Historical Society and the Legion of Valor. Featured items include an 1878 hand pump and a 1913 Fire Truck from the Fresno Fire Department, a section of the Shaver Flume and an 18 photo display of the Mono Indian Tribe taken by A.W. Peters accompanied by a 54-piece woven basket display from the Fresno Historical Society.
The second floor of the building features both permanent and temporary displays from the Fresno Historical Society, Caglia Family, Wells Fargo and more. Featured items include a replica of an old Fresno Courthouse courtroom, complete with 100-year old preserved furnishings and two of the Goddesses of Justice, which were once perched on top of the old Courthouse. The fully restored iconic 1875 Cupola is viewable from the deck. Exhibits honoring William Saroyan, J.E. O’Neill, California Chrome and all the Presidents of the United States who have visited Fresno County are displayed. Additionally, a professional photo wrap of iconic features from throughout Fresno over the past 120 years has been donated by Wells Fargo is featured on one of the walls.
The Community Cultural Center, a 1,000 sq. ft. expansion on the first floor of the Museum that features profiles on 76 iconic Valley individuals from diverse ethnic backgrounds that represent various aspects of Fresno County’s history, was added in 2017. Their stories are shared via touchscreens with photos, video and an audio narrative in three different languages (English, Spanish and Southeast Asian). Additionally, a wall was added to dispaly and exhibit the Hmong New Year and the Hmong community, as well as the Italian and African-American communities. The Community Cultural Center also features a 27’ long and 9’ high mural by Dale Oftedal, a local and highly talented artist that depicts the rich agricultural and ethnic heritage of Fresno County. Dale has done work on exhibits throughout the U.S. and has one piece in the Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame.
Another new aspect this year is the “Mexicanos and Mexican Americans: Interwoven into the Fabric of Fresno County” exhibit, honoring and highlighting the Central Valley Mexican and Mexican American community. This exhibit covers six themes ranging from art and culture to the contributions of Mexicans and Mexican Americans to the economy. This work of art is presented through six flat screen monitors, parabolic speakers and two exhibit cases. The exhibit was made possible by a generous contribution from Ramona and Manuel Prieto, as well as a team of individuals who created and installed it: Lilia Gonzales Chavez; Lea Ybarra; Veronica Chavez; internationally-acclaimed Fresno architect and designer, Arthur Dyson; well-known Fresno artist, F. John Sierra; Mike Weatherson; and Irma Olguin, Jr. This incredible new exhibit is located on the first floor of the museum.
In addition to this expanded section of the Museum, the Fair has added three new neon signs from varying points of Fresno County’s history. Those signs are:
Louie Kee Market Sign- Founded by Kee and Effie Louie, the store was operated by the Louie family for four generations, making it one of the longest-running, family-operated grocery stores in Fresno. It closed in November of 2016 after 93 years in business in West Central Fresno. The iconic family grocery sign now joins the array of famed neon signs surrounding the Paul Paul Theater.
Eddie’s Speed Shop- Eddie’s Speed Shop, founded by Eddie Kludjian and located on Blackstone between McKinley and Olive avenues, was a staple in the racing scene from the 1950s – 1980s. After Kludjian’s passing, the shop was operated by his wife and later sold to Mike Garrison who continued the legacy, producing some of the fastest dragsters and hydroplanes in the country. The sign also features the tailfin off of Jerry Thompson’s super-modified dragster that raced at Kearney Bowl.
Fresno Motel- Plus, the famed Fresno Motel sign that was located for decades along Golden State Highway, will now have a new permanent location at The Big Fresno Fair for everyone enjoy its icon look with the lady diving into a pool.
“History matters. Education matters. It is our responsibility to not only preserve and protect Fresno County’s rich history, but showcase it at the largest annual event in the Central Valley and a year round venue for the public to enjoy and learn from,” stated John Alkire, CEO of The Big Fresno Fair in front of the crowd. “We have been fortunate to have so many community history advocates come forward in support of the Museum and we hope even more will come forward and get involved. Fresno has a lot to be proud of and we need to tell and preserve its stories. The Fresno County Historical Museum will only be as good as the community wants it to be, so we need their continued help.”
Donations & Sponsorships
A comprehensive fundraising campaign is underway to support the acquisition of historical artifacts and creation of permanent exhibits. In June 2015, The Big Fresno Fair also announced a community fundraising drive through Go Fund Me. Formed as a way to get the entire community involved in the new Fresno County Historical Museum, this campaign offers a convenient way that the public can donate whether that is $5 or $1,000 – every donation helps and goes towards creating a true community Museum and the first of its kind. The goal for the Go Fund Me community fundraising drive is set at $75,000. The Fair’s Go Fund Me page can be found at http://bit.ly/GoFundMuseum. For corporate or family legacy donations, please contact Lauri King directly at (559) 650-3228 or email@example.com.
Organizations or individuals interested in being part of the new Fresno County Historical Museum, whether that is through sponsorship, donations of historical artifacts or providing resources are encouraged to contact The Big Fresno Fair directly at (559) 650-FAIR.
During The Big Fresno Fair, the Fresno County Historical Museum is open daily until 9:00 p.m., with the second floor closing at 5:30 p.m. Visitors are welcome to tour the Museum on their own or take a guided tour that also includes a visit to The Big Fresno Fair Museum. These guided tours are available at 11:30 a.m., 2 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. daily and begin at The Big Fresno Fair Museum on the north end just outside the entrance to the Fresno County Historical Museum.
If you are interested in scheduling a tour of the Fresno County Historical Museum year-round, please call (559) 650-FAIR to book an appointment. Please be ready to provide the desired date(s) of tour and group size.