For many families, good old fashion fairs are tradition. Among the oldest tradition dating back to ancient Rome and probably before the birth of Christ were fairs. Fairs are distinct from markets or festivals, as they don’t divide entertainment and mercantilism. Instead both are equally prominent, creating an event that revolves around rides, entertainment, commerce, education, and feasting.
Although Wyandot Count Fair is at the end of summer, the history of fairs started back in the middle ages. Fairs came about as places to convergence for merchants to trade. The United States had a similar beginning for fairs as they were sites for agricultural and livestock farmers to meet and compete. Oxen, Sheep, swine, cattle from farmers and ranchers in the community would compete, and the person with the best animal would win a prize, often monetary.
Believe it or not, the first few fairs in the New World took place in the northernmost region of Canada. The first fair was held in Nova Scotia in 1765, and many small fairs took place across French Canada. Eventually the concept trickled down to New England, where farmer and patriot Elkanah Watson would soon earn the title of “Father of US Agricultural Fairs.”
Watson helped neighboring communities develop their own local, county, and state fairs, and the influence grew like wild fire. Fairs were taking place across all 50 states by the end of the 19th century.
While trade was, at first, the reason for the gathering, entertainment was included early on and soon the fairs were the mixed bags of events that we know them as today. The roller coasters and rides of today’s fairs are far from the simpler versions of earlier fairs, but the earlier were just as spectacular.
At the turn of the century, there was no event more exciting to attend.
To get a glimpse of just how big a deal fairs were at the time, look no further than 1944 Judy Garland classic “Meet Me in St. Louis”. The well-off Smith family has four beautiful daughters. Seventeen-year-old Esther has fallen in love with John, who has just moved in next door. He however, barely notices her at first. The family is shocked when Mr. Smith reveals that he has been transferred to a nice position in New York, which means that the family must leave St. Louis and the 1903 St. Louis World’s Fair.
So, grab your kids and get ready for displays of blue-ribbon pies, carnival rides, horse racing, loud noises from the tractor and demo competition, and head out to make memories. Of course, indulging in “fair food” a corndog, cotton candy, and the many other options goes along with the fair tradition.
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