|This is Marty Biniasz. At the June meeting of the Grand Island Historical Society, he kept everyone entertained with his recounting the history of the Erie County (New York) Fair. This August, the Erie County Agricultural Society will present the 171st county fair. The fair has definitely changed since it first began in 1820, when the first of two “pioneer fairs” were organized.
Marty said that there are six main reasons to hold a county fair. They are:
I will mostly focus on the “having fun” part. After all, if a county fair is not fun, why bother to go?
So here is a bit of the history of the Erie County Fair. We now celebrate county fairs during the summer, but, originally, fairs were held in late September and early October, when farmers had harvested their crops. There was a harness racing track at the fair. Down the road and away from the fairgrounds, people could enjoy watching drag racing.
After 1821, the fairs were suspended for several reasons:
|In 1819, when the Agricultural Society was formed, the population of the region that would later become Erie and Niagara counties was 2,000. The society was formed to be a lobbying mechanism to look out for the interests of farmers. Erie and Niagara counties separated in 1821. By 1829, thanks to the boom economic times provided by the existence of the canal, the population of Erie County was 30,000.
Lewis F. Allen, who was the Society’s president from 1841-1842 and Orlando Allen, Society president in 1847, were instrumental in re-instituting the fair. The fair was moved several times. It was held in downtown Buffalo and was later moved south and was held in such towns as Springville, East Aurora, and West Seneca. By 1868, it was moved to Hamburg, and that has been its home ever since.
Here are some interesting (and maybe odd) facts about Hamburg and the fair:
The fair is all about fun, with a serious message. These days, only two percent of the population of the United States works in agriculture. Because most of the population is not involved in farming or food production, there is a need to educate people about agriculture via a program called “farm to table.”
The Erie County Fair is scheduled for August 10th through the 21st.
What summertime events are you looking forward to?
3 thoughts on “The entertaining history of the Erie County Fair”
That's a long county fair. I haven't been to our county fair (Broome) in many years. Even longer for the neighboring county's fair (Tioga), which used to be held in August and is now held in July. I enjoy some of the agricultural aspects. I hope to get to the NYS Fair this year for Senior Day.
What an interesting history! I like that they educate people about agriculture. I think we need to pay a lot more attention to where our food comes from. But how interesting that the first hamburgers had coffee & brown sugar in them. I think I'm glad we don't still make them that way. 🙂
How I loved our county fair when we livedin upstate New York. It's great to read the history of your fair, I may have to dig up the info on ours!