New Exhibit Opening: The Extraordinary Cow Palace

  • Share:
Name: New Exhibit Opening: The Extraordinary Cow Palace
Date: March 2, 2024
Time: 1:00 PM - 4:00 PM PST
Event Description:
On Saturday, March 2, 2024, the San Mateo County History Museum will open The Extraordinary Cow Palace in its Changing Exhibits Gallery. Displays will include portions of the box office walls that were autographed by celebrities like Bing Crosby and Tom Selleck. Objects representing the Grand National will include a rodeo barrel and chaps worn by some of the Miss Grand Nationals. Memorabilia from the Dicken’s Fairs, Disney on Ice, and the Ringling Brothers Circus will be shown. Clothing worn by rock star Eric Clapton and drumsticks used by Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason will evoke memories of great concerts. From the world of sports will be an autographed basketball signed by the Harlem Globetrotters and a full Bay Bombers Roller Derby uniform. Photos and video from the Republican National Conventions of 1956 and 1964, plus John F. Kennedy’s 1960 speech announcing the formation of the Peace Corps will be highlighted along with other images of international social and political significance.
FREE activities will begin at 1 p.m. with a panel discussion featuring past Cow Palace board members and staff. At 2 p.m. will be the exhibit’s ribbon cutting. After the ribbon cutting and until closing time at 4 p.m., Brass Farthing will provide musical entertainment reflective of the eight decades in which the Cow Palace has served as an important events center.

The California Department of Food and Agricultural Division of Fairs and Expositions conceived the Cow Palace in 1931, when during the Great Depression, the state legislature passed a $250,000 appropriation to purchase a suitable site to have livestock expositions. A local newspaper asked: “Why, when people are starving, should money be spent on a palace for cows?” The name stuck.
Construction at the Daly City location began in 1935. Through the Works Projects Administration, thousands of unemployed were put to work. The new arena boasted a concrete and steel roof. The first event was the Western Classic Holstein show in April 1941, followed by the first Grand National Livestock Expo, Horse Show and Rodeo that November.

After a five-year hiatus during World War II, Ed Diran was hired as the Cow Palace’s third employee in 1946. During his tenure, the law prohibiting the Cow Palace from serving as a venue for commercial and for-profit events was rescinded. In addition to the Grand National, the Cow Palace became a regular venue for family entertainment, concerts, exhibitions, competitive events, and conventions.

The Cow Palace has been an important part of Bay Area history for over 83 years. The San Mateo County History Museum is proud to share its extraordinary story.

Image: While a junior at Sacred Heart High School, former Senator Dianne Goldman Feinstein was named Miss Junior Grand National in 1951. Courtesy of San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library.

San Mateo County History Museum
2200 Broadway
Redwood City, CA 94063
Date/Time Information:
Saturday, March 2nd, 2024
Free admission starting at 1p.m.
Contact Information:
Communications Staff
Free starting at 1p.m.
Set a Reminder:
Enter your email address below to receive a reminder message.