When the “Okaloosa Industrial Fair” made its debut over 50 years ago on Okaloosa Island, few realized that an important and continuing community tradition had begun. Originally the Fort Walton Beach Shrine Club, it became known as the “Fort Walton Beach Shrine Fair” in 1967, securing it’s 501-C-3 not for profit certification. In 1971 the Fair moved away from Okaloosa Island. With help from Congressman Bob Sikes, and then secretary of the Air Force Lewis Turner, 42 acres were acquired at the event’s present site. This allowed the Fair to have the space necessary to grow and improve through the years.
With the inception in 1974 of Chapter 616 (a state law designed to ensure the quality and safety of all fairs across the state), the fair became chartered under the state of Florida, Department of Agriculture. The event began to attract larger crowds and well known performing artists. In recent years the fairgrounds have become a location for a variety of other events, including everything from dog shows and fishing shows to science fairs and military appreciation day.
Today, the Northwest Florida Fairgrounds has 45,000 square feet of rentable space, 36,000 square feet of controlled exhibit/meeting space, and banquet space for 1,500 attendees.