Prosser was long home to Native Americans who lived and fished along the river. They called the area “Tap tut”, meaning rapids.
Colonel William Farrand Prosser first surveyed the area in 1879, then claimed homestead in 1882. The Northern Pacific Railroad laid tracks through the area two years later. A town plat was filed by Colonel Prosser in 1885, and in 1886 he was elected Yakima County Auditor. He moved to North Yakima to attend to these duties, and never returned to the town that he founded.
Lewis Hinzerling built a flour mill at Prosser falls in 1887, encouraging further settlement of the area. The first irrigation canal was completed in 1893 by the Prosser Falls Land and Irrigation Company. Prosser was officially incorporated in 1899 with a population of 229 people.
In 1905, Benton County was carved out of the eastern portions of Yakima and Klickitat Counties. The new town of Prosser was chosen as county seat. In 1907 a power plant was added and began delivering electricity to the town. The following year, a new high school was built, followed a year later by a telephone exchange. In 1910 the city received a grant from the Andrew Carnegie for a public library.
Throughout the 1910s and 1920s various companies drilled in this area for oil and natural gas. There were no large findings and the Great Depression put an end to exploration.
On November 5, 1912, Benton County voters held a referendum to move the county seat from Prosser to either Kennewick or Benton City. Intense rivalry and war of words between Benton City, Kennewick, and Prosser preceded the vote. Despite getting a majority of the vote, Kennewick did not receive 60 percent of the vote as required by law. To date, Prosser remains the county seat.
In 1919, Washington State College (later WSU) established the Irrigation Experiment Station at Prosser. The program’s mandate is to study the problems faced by farmers, orchardists, and ranchers in the dry central part of the state. The station originally employed scientists from the college in Pullman, who partnered with scientists from the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The station is still currently in use, and offers a number of agricultural education programs.
Prosser at one point had three newspapers, which were consolidated in the 1920s into the Prosser Record-Bulletin, and a permanent courthouse was built in 1926. The Benton County Historical Museum was dedicated in 1968.
In more recent years, Prosser’s location on a major river (the Yakima) and highway access has encouraged a growing wine business and associated tourist industry. Several Prosser wineries are located within the Yakima Valley appellation.
- Prosser Community Awards Banquet In January the community honors hard working citizens and volunteers.
- Red Wine & Chocolate
- Sweet Retreat 2nd Saturday in March the Columbia Valley Winery Association hosts the pairing of sweet wine with food.
- Spring Barrel Tasting In April various wineries offer tasting.
- Wine Country Spring Fair In May on Mother’s Day weekend arts and crafts in the park.
- Farmers Market Usually starts in May sometime and runs every weekend through harvest.
- The Dash Race for the Kids Early June after school lets out we have a bicycle competition a 62-mile “Metric Century” and youth fun run. Wine tasting after for the adults.
- Kestrel Festival Sponsored by Kestrel Wines. This takes place in June each year.
- Old Fashioned 4 July 4 July Weekend, includes a kiddie parade, car show, fireworks, bingo, stage shows, and food vendors in the park.
- Art Walk and Wine Gala Wine tasting event in the middle of July.
- Prosser’s Wine and Food Fair” One of the top events of the year on the 2nd Saturday of August. Thirty-some Washington Wineries and food from 20 vendors come together to offer sampling and tasting. Formerly located at Art Fiker Stadium, the event is held at the WSU Irrigation Experiment Station due to the stadium being part of the high school and being a non-alcoholic site.
- A Night Out Beginning of September. Fundraising benefit of food and fun for the Prosser Memorial Foundation.
- Prosser State’s Day Celebration Another one of the top events of the year. On Labor Day. There is a carnival in the city park, and a parade in the morning. Miss Prosser is crowned.
- The Great Prosser Balloon Rally The last of the top events. On September 25, 26, & 27th 2015, Hot air balloons are scheduled to launch just after dawn from the Prosser airport. Balloons glow from within at Art Fiker Stadium during The Great Prosser Balloon Rally Night Glow show.
- Annual Harvest Festival Same weekend as the Balloon Rally. Arts and crafts downtown with fun and food.
- Annual Caren Mercer-Andreason Street Painting Festival Same weekend as the Prosser Balloon Rally and Harvest Festival. Watch local and regional artists create works of art on the pavement in downtown Prosser.
- Thanksgiving in Wine Country Sunday after Thanksgiving. Sample all the newly released wines.
- Family Christmas Festival The annual lighting of the Christmas tree takes place with carolers and holiday music.
- Rocky Marmot Cancer Awareness Run First Saturday in October 5k Fun Run to raise money for cancer research.
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