Richland County Fair Sesquicentennial ~ 1857-2012
The Richland County Agricultural Society was organized May 15, 1857. One of its objectives was to improve “the character and operation of agricultural, mechanical, and household arts.” In order to achieve this objective, later that year, in Octover, the Agricultural Society sponsored a “cattle show and fair” at Thompson’s Hall on Main Street. This exhibition proved such a popular success that the Society sponsored a fair for one hundered years. The 1858-1860 and 1866-1868 fairs were held on the Courthouse Square. The fairs were not held from 1861 through 1865 because of the Civil War. Revived in 1866, by 1868 the fair had grown to overflow the space by the Courthouse, so the Society decided to purchase a fairgound. The 1869 fair was held on four acres purchased from Caleb and Nancy Waggoner for $400.00. This fairground was located in the present 600 block of Haseltine Street.
By 1873 the fair had outgrown the Haseltine Street fairground. The Society sold that land for a profit and purchased 20 acres of what is now the current fairgrounds on County Hwy AA. Admission that year for the fair was $0.25 per person, $0.15 for a single riding horse, $0.25 for a horse and carriage, and $0.35 for 2 horses and a carriage. The Fairgrounds expanded again in 1875 when the Society purchased an additional 11 acres adjacent to the fairgrounds. In 1877 a resolution was made to purchase 2000 ft of lumber to build an open air shed to shelter vehicles, machines, poultry, etc.
1880 brought with it J.W. Smith who was allowed to build an amphitheater to accomidate spectators during the races held at the fair. The Society reserved the rights to purchase the amphitheater at any time and admission was not to exceed $0.10 per person. A one mile bicycle race was featured at the 1895 fair with a purse of $25.00 for the winner of the best 2 out of 3 races.
Ever expanding in 1904 the Society purchased another nine acres. In 1905 the fair featured a floral parade and a football game between a Richland Center team and a team from Madison.
1919 another two and a half acres was purchased. 1921 a grandstand estimated to seat 3,000 people was constructed and the fair was held on the second week of September. 1922 another 1.25 acres was purchased to build a new racetrack.
In 1924 the fair was held in early August and the first wedding to be held on the fairgrounds took place in front of the grandstands, the bride was a Foods and Nutrition Superintendant for several years. In 1927 some of the entertainment featured at the fair included the Richland Center High School Band who played daily during the fair. Two evenings that year there was a historical pagent depicting the hopes, ideals, and endecors for the betterment of the people.
In the 1930’s A.V. Miller, the County’s first Extension agent, began to organize our county’s 4-H program, clubs and membership grew and the 4-H influence in the county became more pronounced.
More history to coming soon…….