Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Little State Fair

This the week for the Little State Fair in Ohio, the Brown County Fair in Georgetown, Ohio. My parents took me to my first Brown County Fair in the 50's. It became a family tradition as we all loved the fair.

This is the 159th annual fair. Can you even imagine what the first ones were like? The fair was started as a place to show off your crop and talk to your neighbors and get away from the farm for a while. I don't know when the carnival entered in.
The 100th Brown County Fair was held in 1951.
in 1951 Gooding Amusement Co. from Hillard, Ohio provided rides and payed the fair board $50 for use of electricity.
In 1952 School Day was established with County Superintendent H.D. West, allowing school buses to bring students to the fair.
Celebrity mule races of local people were held in 1954 and had 3 heats daily.
In 1955 it rained three of the four days and the fair board had to borrow $15,000 to pay bills.
Championship wrestling both men and women was held in front of the grandstand in 1955.
In 1956 the Republicans and Democrats requested that each party rent space to pass out literature.
In 1956 the Georgetown Business and Professional Club was given permission to hold a Beauty Queen Contest. Wrist-watches were given to the winners.
In 1957 the fair board purchased $10,000 of liability insurance for $211. Today, $1,000,000 of liability insurance is over $20,000 for the fair.
In 1957 is was determined that Brown County Teachers who did not travel on the buses to the fair with the students would be charged the regular gate admission of $0.75.
In 1958 the fair board paid $1.00 per hour for unskilled labor and $1.50 for skilled labor before and during the fair.
In 1959 was the first year the fair board bought rain insurance.
In 1960 general admission prices were raised to $1.00.1961-1970
In 1961skydivers from Williamsburg, Ohio were hired to make nine jumps onto the fairgrounds for $125.
In 1962 rain again affected fair receipts and the board had to borrow $8000 to pay premiums.
In 1963 the organist was paid $75.00 per day to play during horse shows.
In 1964 a week before the fair opened, the small grandstand built in 1937 burned to the ground.
In 1965 a rule was set into place that no pop was to be sold in cans because of the danger of people slipping on them.
In 1965 the first two days of the fair were completely rained out and was extended to Sunday to help make up for the loss.
In 1966 the fair board included a rain date of Sunday, October 2. A first in fair history and it was used because Friday was a rain out.
In 1966 was the first Speed Tractor Pull. The sled nothing more than a boiler plate. A small tractor was added for weight. Chairs were placed every 20 feet along each side of the track. Volunteers from the audience sat on the chairs. As the tractor began to pull and the sled passed, a person from each side would step on, adding weight.

Yes I remember that. It was the most exciting thing I ever saw involving a farm tractor. The bug bit me and I had to build my own tractor in the 70's and pull in my own county fair. I never won there. I always came in second. It was and is a very competitive pull.

I also remember those rain out years. Those were bad years for the farm. You couldn't harvest your corn. One year we lost it all to floods.

In 1967 was the first year the fair book cover contest was sponsored by the fair board.
In 1968 the Lawn and Garden Tractor Pull was approved.
In 1968 the Brown County Historical Society asked permission to move the Dixon-Washburn Log House next to the Old Timers Building.
In 1969 the Brown County Fair became a 5-day event lasting Tuesday through Saturday.
In 1970 another Friday was rained out and the schedule was held over for Sunday.
The retirement of the debt and the burning of the mortgage in 1970 was mainly due to the income generated by the tractor pulls.

The tractor pulls always brought in pullers and visitors from far away. No wonder it was so popular it helped build the fair.

People had to have something more than regular fair food so a pork producers group was started and started selling pork tenderloin sandwiches. They have sold millions. That money helped build many of the new structures presently on the grounds.

My 4-H Agent Al Rhonemus was always highly involved in the management and work of that fair and probably nicknamed it the Little State Fair.

Al passed away over the winter and is missing his first fair. He sure gave everything he had and taught us students well.

Go visit the fair if you have the chance to before Saturday night.



  1. My sister said don't forget when she won the market hog show with her Duroc Big Red!

  2. I was just sitting here thinking that this sort of thing would probably only be interesting to those of us who grew up on a farm. But that's okay, I really enjoyed your little stroll through local history!

  3. I bet a lot of communities have a similar story yet each is unique due to its people and that place in its time in history.

    They don't call it the Little State Fair for nothing!