Friday, July 13, 2012

A Look Back at the Fair

As the 4-H Fair gets going this weekend, let's take a look back at the history of the fair in Decatur County.

The first fair in the county was held in 1852 in the "Hendricks Woods” between Broadway and Lincoln Streets. Over the years, it moved to several different locations, but was eventually discontinued in the 1890’s due to a lack of interest and financial problems.

Here's a newspaper write-up for the fair from August 1879:

After the 1879 fair, the newspaper reported, “While the management of the fair in general was very satisfactory, there were some things with which the public were not pleased,” including a “sad lack of sprinkling” on the track and road, which led to an uncomfortable amount of dust. It was also reported that the fair organizers should not have allowed buggies and horses within the track enclosure because they made it “unpleasant and dangerous for all those walking.” The “most objectionable feature” of the fair, according to the writer, was the admission and licensing of gambling, which in previous years had been banned.

From 1905 - 1912, the Decatur County Fair Association held annual fairs in Greensburg, with an emphasis on horse races and free entertainment.

After that, the American Legion and the Eagles Lodge hosted fairs until the county began to hold an annual Agricultural Fall Fair in 1926.

The 4-H Fair as we know it today, with its emphasis on youth in agriculture, took shape in the 1940’s, and it moved to the grounds near the Decatur County Park in 1948, where it remains today.

The Greensburg Public Library has a small collection of Decatur County 4-H Agricultural Fair programs for the following years:
  • 1959
  • 1960
  • 1961 
  • 1963
  • 1964
  • 1966
  • 1967
  • 1968
  • 1969
  • 1972
Each program includes a listing of the Fair Board, daily schedules, lists of committee members, and lists of participants for each project, as well as black and white photographs, merchant lists, and advertisements.

These programs are fun to look through and useful for researchers. Stop by the library anytime to take a look, and let us know if you have additional programs you would like to add to our collection.

Researched and written by Lori Osting

  • Harding, Lewis A. History of Decatur County, p. 388-389.
  • Stewart, Gilman. A little history of the Decatur County fair, 2003 4-H Fair program.
  • Decatur County newspaper collection on microfilm.

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