By Janet Kehres
The 161st Crawford County Fair is scheduled this year for this Sunday, July 15 through Saturday, July 21.
The first fair held in Crawford County was in October, 1848. It featured ten entries of sheep and hogs, exhibited in wagons on the land where the present courthouse is located in Bucyrus. The second was the following year with mostly cattle exhibits.
The third fair, was held in October 1850 and was considered a huge event. It was more of a show with cattle, and was held on grounds purchased expressly for the purpose of a fair, though the Ohio and Indiana Railroad ran through the site.
Shortly there after a new site was purchased along Rish Lane (now Wise Street) near Oakwood Cemetery. The land contained about eight acres and a race track was developed. This became the site of the fourth fair and subsequent annual fairs until 1861. No fairs were held during the Civil War.
Finally, in 1867 a fair was under consideration for Crawford County. A stock company organized by eleven men, under the name of the Crawford County Agricultural Association (CCAA) was developed in 1867. Among those men were John Bremen, who had several valuable horses, and whose eighth-of-a-mile race course could still be raced in 1921. Major Edmund Dearsley of Bucyrus was also a member of the new company. The company bought eighteen acres of land on the site of the old Crawford County fairgrounds north of Lincoln Way and just east of the T. & O.C. Main tracks. In 1869, nine more acres were added, and in 1871, another four acres and a half, making a total of over thirty-two acres.
The Agricultural Society rented the land from the CCAA and it was here the four-day 15th annual fair was held in October, 1867. The society was reorganized with D.C. Boyer as president and Josiah Koler, vice president. Both men were stockholders in the CCAA.
Annual fairs, from the 15th through the 59th were held on the site along the T. & O.C. Railroad. When it came time to remove railroad shops from Bucyrus to make room for expansion, the Bucyrus Industrial Association negotiated for the formation of a company called the Bucyrus Land Company, organized to dispose of the old fairground site and provide a new place.
Bucyrus newspapers reported that after considerable meetings, the old Boyer farm lying just east of the old grounds and Whetstone Street, was bought from the owner, E. Yaussey, for $17,500. The purchase occurred on September 16, 1914.
Improvements soon began and are still continuing. In March and June of 1922, the society approved improvements to the fairgrounds for over $13,000 - which is equivalent to over $185,000 today. Some of those improvements was the construction of a cattle barn at the cost of $6,043. Bonds were sold to cover the costs of construction of the buildings. Two years later a horse barn was constructed on the site at a cost of $7,000.
The next event occurred in 1942 when the fair board turned the grounds over to the commissioners. The fairgrounds was then leased to the federal government for the duration of the Second World War and for six months after for Camp Millard. Camp Millard was a United States Army facility in Crawford County. It was established on the Crawford County Fairgrounds in 1942. After WWII, the land and building were returned to the county. In 1946, the county commissioners approved a resolution accepting all buildings and installed equipment, plus $20,000 cash from the government for use of the fairgrounds.
In October, 1946, a contract was signed to rebuild and relocate the half-mile track at the fairgrounds at a cost of $8,000. A year later, bonds were issued for construction of the grandstand and other buildings at a cost of $125,000. Other construction at the fairgounds through the years has included a horse barn and pole shelter in 1959, a new display building in 1958, another pole barn in 1961, the Youth Building in 1974, a new restroom in 1990, a new show arena in 1992 (to replace the one burned in 1991) and a new secretary's office in 1995.
In 1955, a plaque was purchased to commemorate the fairgrounds used by Camp Millard during WWII. The base for the plaque was furnished and put in place by members of the 753rd Railroad Battalion. The latest addition to the fairgrounds is a new Ag & Expo Building in 2012, named the Camp Millard Agricultural & Exposition Building. It is a 100' X 200' metal building with a concrete floor that houses swine, goats and alpacas during the fair and is rented for many community events throughout the spring and fall.
At this year’s annual fair, visitors are welcome to visit the Farm Bureau “Youth Fun & Education Center” in the Whetstone Building where it is open daily from 11am to 8pm.
The gate admissions on Tuesday, July 17, will be free until 3 p.m. On Thursday, veterans and senior citizens will be admitted for only $2.00 at the gate.