History Of The Ohio State Fair

By Janet Kehres

State fairs began in the nineteenth century for the purpose of promoting state agriculture, through competitive exhibitions of livestock and display of farm products.

As the U.S. evolved in the twentieth century, modern state fairs expanded to include carnival amusement rides and games, display of industrial products, automobile racing and entertainment such as musical concerts.

The first U.S. State fair was in New York, in 1841 in Syracuse. Approximately 10,000-15,000 people heard speeches by notables and viewed animal exhibits, a plowing contest and samples of manufactured goods for the farm and home.

The second state fair was in Detroit, Michigan in 1849.

Credit for the idea of the state fair is often given to Elkanah Watson, a wealthy New England farmer and businessman who showcased his sheep in the public square of Pittsfield, Massachusetts in 1807.

State fairs continued to grow through out the country popping up in different states at a rapid pace. The only time no fair was held happened 1942-1947 because of World War II. Some of the fairgrounds became military bases for our military during this period.

The Ohio State Fair is one of the largest state fairs in the United States. The first 3-day fair in Ohio was in 1850 in Cincinnati.

In 1846, the Ohio Legislature created a 53 member Ohio State Board of Agriculture.

One of the Board's first acts was to establish a District Fair. The result was a District Fair in 1847 at Wilmington, Ohio and in 1848 a District Fair was held at Zenia, Ohio. Both were successful, which lead to the planning of a State Fair.

The first Ohio State Fair was planned for September 1849, but an outbreak of Asiatic cholera forced cancellation. The following year, autumn dates were chosen to lessen the risk of cholera. Even so, the superintendent of grounds, Darius Lapham, died of the disease just a few weeks before the opening date.

Camp Washington, Cincinnati (two miles north of downtown Cincinnati, Ohio) was the site for the first Ohio State Fair, October 2-4, 1850. The site was 8-10 acres with grassy slopes, shade trees and numerous tents. The grounds were enclosed by a 10 foot high board fence. Cattle were tethered to a railing along the carriage road.

The railroads offered strong support to the early state fairs. Special rates offered to exhibits that were transported by rail and the exhibitor rode for half fare.

Cash premiums at the first Fair did not exceed $20, with the exception of an award of $50 given to essayists on the topic "Improving the Soil."

During the early state fairs, winners received medals, not ribbons, as awards. In 1850, the silver medal was valued at $3.

The public was admitted only on the second and third day of the first Fair.

Day one was devoted to setting up and judging.

Admission was twenty cents, but exhibitors could buy a $1 badge for admission of their families. A visitor could also buy $1 badge, which admitted one gentleman and two ladies. The two day attendance was estimated at 25,000 to 30,000 people.

Transportation around Ohio at that time was difficult. The majority of exhibitors came from close proximity to the Fair. Officials reasoned that moving the Fair might increase interest and attendance.

Over a span of 22 years, the Fair was held at Columbus, Cleveland, Dayton, Newark, Cincinnati, Sandusky, Zanesville, Toledo, Springfield and Mansfield.

From 1874 until 1885, the site of Columbus' Franklin Park served as home to the Ohio State Fair. Finally, in 1886, the Fair moved to its current location to what is currently called the Ohio Expo Center and State Fairgrounds.

In 1981 the fair was stretched to 17 days, running from Friday, August 14 through Sunday, August 30.

The 2015 Ohio State Fair was held Friday, July 29 through Sunday, August 9.

Fifth graders they could get into the Fair for free. With the presentation of a valid report card, exiting fourth grade students (2014-2015 academic year) and one chaperone were able to get into the Ohio State Fair for free to participate in the interactive learning experience "Agriculture is Cool."

The Ohio Department of Agriculture, Ohio Farm Bureau, Ohio State Fair and Ohio's agricultural commodity groups sponsored this program at the Fair that aims to educate students about Ohio's largest industry in fun, hands-on ways.

Throughout the Fair, there were many different interactive stations set up to help educate children about agriculture. These included learning how to milk a cow, watching the birth of farm animals, observing how to spin wool into yarn and many more exciting activities. Each of the stations location were shown on a fair map on the day held and were shown with the star-shaped "Ag" symbol on certain buildings and locations.

Fair goers were given the opportunity to win big money with "Agriculture is Cool"!

After the Fair ends, fourth graders who attended the Fair have the opportunity to compete to win a $500 scholarship and have their picture posted to the Department of Agriculture's website. To enter, students must write an essay about what they learned at the "Agriculture is Cool" interactive stations. Entries must be postmarked by Aug. 31 and students may only enter once. The winner will be notified via email or phone by Sept. 28.

Ohio State Fair can be an enjoyable experience for the young students to the older ones eager to learn about the progress agriculture has made. Fairgoers got to see the friendly mascot Butters D. Cow who was out and about the fairgrounds daily.

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