Very soon, the fairgrounds will be full of excited fairgoers. The lights will be visible for a great distance and the sound of laughter will be heard.
The horses will be put through their paces for the delight of watchers, and tractors will be hitched to huge blocks of cement to see how far the heavy loads can be pulled. A special highlight of the fair is when the 4-H King and Queen along with their court will be selected.
In the midway games and rides will be available, and of course, the best part is the fried vegetables, cotton candy and lemonade, along with the other edibles which will be presented.
The barns will be filled with animals, and the Art Hall will be filled with antiques and hand-crafted items as well as baked goods.
“The longest, continuously running Fair West of the Alleghenies” will be in full swing here in Greene County.
Everything must have a beginning. In June 1833, the County Commissions placed the following information: “Notice be given in the Xenia Territory this week that there will be a meeting held at the Court House in Xenia on the last Friday in June for the purpose of organizing an Agricultural Society.”
The very next year, the Commissioners agreed to pay the sum of $30 to the Agricultural Society to hold a fair. This first fair was described as “a place for social relaxation where neighbors, who rarely saw their neighbors, could gossip. But horse flesh and the products of the field were the primary attraction.” Some things never change.
Displays of farm produce and fancy needlework were also included, and so the stage was set for many more years of producing a county-wide fair.
There was so much interest from county residents, as well as folks in neighboring counties, that the court house lawn was not adequate, so the next year, seven acres of land was leased for the purpose. The site was on Columbus Pike, east of Xenia. Fair Street is the approximate location of the grounds. In 1852, Elizabeth Williams deeded the property to the Agricultural Society.
When the Civil War broke out, the site was used as a training camp for soldiers.
The fair continued to grow, so the site was not adequate. When a new site was chosen on the north side of Xenia (present site) in 1867, the folks at Jamestown were very upset, because of the additional distance they would travel by horse and buggy, bringing their livestock and prize produce to display.
The Union Agricultural Society was formed so that a second fair could be held in Greene County each year, one in Xenia, the other in Jamestown. The 1884 tornado in Jamestown closed the fair permanently.
The July 1870 Xenia Torchlight posted “the 31st annual fair of the Greene County Agricultural Society will take place Sept. 6-8 It will be a splendid exhibition of agricultural products, such as the inhabitants of the central district may well be proud of. By the term “agricultural products” we of course include cloth of all kinds, the display of which will be as extensive and excellent as the superior facilities and locations and convenience can always command.”
The Agricultural Society purchased a little over 36 acres from Richard Galloway on what became known as Fairgrounds Road. In order to provide funding for the purchase and maintenance, six hundred shares were sold at $25 per share; however by 1874, in spite of the shares sold to maintain the property, the site was sold at auction to Eli Millen, local businessman and often philanthropist, who then leased the grounds to the Agricultural Society. In 1923 his heirs deeded the land back to the Fair Board, present site including about 50 acres.
For many years, when transportation was largely by horse and buggy, or early automobiles, families came early in the morning, brought their picnic lunches and gathered under a shady tree to enjoy lunch, then each person was off to the various entertainments.
4-H kids display many different types of talents including animals they have raised. Some kids are fortunate enough to go on for further completion at the Ohio State Fair. In 1910, one young man was most eager to be a representative at the State Fair. He wrote a petition, secured many signatures and won the privilege. Unfortunately, when he got there, he found his assignment was with a bucket, broom and shovel.
In 1943, the Fair Board debated about whether to forego the fair, because of the war. The decision was made “Our men, husbands, sons and brothers are at war.
The county Fair Board is trying to do all it can to further all was service, to encourage the higher and better production of food and flbers, to keep our morale and American spirit at the high plane that has been achieved by our forefathers. Let us make this the best Greene County Fair on record.”
In 1945, the theme was “Fight with Food and Bonds.” That year, admission was raised from 40 cents to 50 cents.
In the early years, the fair lasted just three days, but since there is such a demand, the time has been extended. The fair has been held at various times from August to October, but during the 1920s a definite time was set with dates arranged so that adjoining counties will not hold a fair the same week.
Joan Baxter is a Greene County resident and historical columnist.
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