The History Center on Main Street, 83 N. Main Street, Mansfield PA 16933
Tri-Counties Genealogy & History by Joyce M. Tice
Chemung County Fair
Bradford County PA
Chemung County NY
Tioga County PA
Article: Chemung County Fair
Chemung County
Article by Helen Mac Dougall Samson (1909-1995) in 1976
Sent in by Walt Samson
Retyped by Debbie Hansen
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It will soon be time for the annual County Fair. It won’t be quite like the first one held in Chemung County but there will still be chickens, cows, sheep in the pens and there will be baked goodies and flowers. It will be a great year for quilts and other examples of handiwork of the ladies.

The first meeting to organize an Agricultural Society was held in September, 1841 in the home of A. A. Beckwith at the southeast corner of Broad and Center Streets in the Village of Fairport, now Horseheads. This date makes the Society on of the very oldest in the state as the first State Fair was held in Syracuse in 1841.

Local officers elected in 1841 were: president, James Hughson of Big Flats, vice presidents, John McDowell, Chemung; Abel Buckley, Catlin; Phineas Catlin, Catherine; Hiram White, Cayuta; John Crawford, Dix; William Hoffman, Elmira; John A. McKay, Erin; Samuel Leverich, Southport; William VanDuser, Veteran; William Wisner, Elmira; William Maxwell, Elmira and Alonso Wynkoop of Chemung held offices.

The Elmira Gazette in 1848 faithfully reported the premiums awarded in that year and revealed the fact that strict rules, if not adhered to, prevented many entries from the first prize.

The State Fair was held in Elmira four times in the early years. One location was on land now occupied by the Kennedy Valve Company, in 1871, state and county organizations decided to join together and secured about 400 acres of land lying midway between Horseheads and Elmira. The State Association had their exhibition every three years and the County group had the grounds for their’s on the other years. Dissatisfaction arose with the management of the state officers and the 1883 exhibition seems to have been the last one. Fair records are not complete.

In 1891, the Fairgrounds were moved to the Shoot property, 35 acres in the Town of Horseheads, from the site east of Eldridge Park.

Other attractions were added through the years. A balloon ascension was arranged in 1908 and cost $180. Only two years later, Mr. Thomas, an aviator from Hammondsport came to put on a show and his asking price of $400 and expenses was reduced to an offer of $150 for each successful flight and $50 for his expenses. He accepted. A purse of $100 was offered for a five-mile motorcycle race and in 1911, Zim’s band was hired to play on Friday of the Fair. Many people enjoyed their first ride in an automobile when they paid a quarter to ride once around the racetrack in on of the early cars.

The usual freak shows and games of chance were on the midway from the earliest Fair. Alcoholic beverages were not sold until recent times but the boys brought their own and were discrete about taking a nip outback of the horse barns. The evening was considered out of bounds to a respectable lady unless accompanied by a husband or stalwart boyfriend and whole day trips were taken by families who brought their own dinners and spread a light lunch of fried chicken and all the trimmings in the shade of the family surrey before returning to the midway or the farm implement display where everything from threshers to household gadgets could be seen and purchased. It was the highlight of the summer for most farm families and everyone attended, met their friends, saw the shows and had a great time with very little expense. City folks were more often there in the evening but it was an event that they didn’t miss, either.
The History Center on Main Street, 83 N. Main Street, Mansfield PA 16933

First Added to the Site  on 23 DEC 2002
By Joyce M. Tice

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