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Harrison County Fair has long history

July 4, 2012
By ESTHER MCCOY - Staff write , The Herald-Star

CADIZ - Welcome to the 165th-annual Harrison County Fair, a fair that has been around since 1847, and has moved five times during those years.

A history of the event was laid out in the July 2007 edition of the Harrison County Historical Society newsletter called "The JimHinker," under the direction of Scott Pendleton, historical society secretary.

The 1847 fair was held at Short Creek/Georgetown, according to Pendleton.

For the next two years, its location was unknown but the next move was to the county courthouse lawn from 1850-52.

Next the fair was held at Sharp's Grove, at the top of the hill to Oakwood Drive in Cadiz, with the property owned by John Sharp. The Harrison County Recorder's Office has a recorded lease between him and the Agricultural Society, leasing 10 acres at $400 per year from Nov. 1, 1875, until 1885.

Sharp's death brought about new owners in 1879 - J. and A. Porter, who changed the name to Porter's Fairgrounds. The county fair remained at this location until 1889, when it was moved due to the shorter size of the horse racing track.

In a catalog of the 43rd-annual fair it was announced "We claim to have the finest grounds, the most complete buildings for the protection of exhibits, the best stabling and shelter for livestock and the fastest and best national half-mile track. In short, the most complete arrangement for holding a fair in Eastern Ohio."

Those grounds were located on the Boggs farm, three-quarters of a mile from Cadiz on the Cadiz/Unionvale Road. It was leased from Walter Craig for a period of 10 years.

New buildings were in the process of being erected, including a 60-foot art hall, with a cross hall of the same size; a 100-foot long machinery hall; 120-foot sheep hall; 59-foot boarding hall, with attached kitchen; a 150-foot grandstand; and first class box stalls.

The Boggs farm also was known as Walnut Grove, Craig's Fairgrounds and McMechen's Fairgrounds and in Green Township. Craig owned 884 acres and was a well-known breeder of standard bred trotting horses and Percheron work horses. On his farm was the famous "Numero" stud horse. He offered $100 to anyone who broke 2:30 minutes during a public race with a horse sired by one of his studs.

He rented the grounds to the fair board for $500 a year but in 1896 there was discord over the rent. Craig wanted the society to also rent both of his hotels and 50 horse stalls in addition to the $500. Because of this, the fair was moved back to Sharp's Grove that year. The dispute was settled and the fair returned to Walnut Grove the following year.

With repeated reference to parking problems and the Agricultural Society paying nearly $10,000 in rent since 1890 for use of the land - later becoming the J. B. McMechen farm in 1903 - a new location was selected.

The Cadiz Park and Chautauqua area was accepted under the terms that a half-mile race track, with a 10-acre lake in the center be part of the deal, as well as water, gas and electric lights on the grounds; cement walk to the entrance; use of pavilion for exhibits; and grounds free of charge for one to 10 years.

The agriculture society was to keep $400 out of the receipts and the Chautauqua Association was to keep the rest of the profits to pay for promised improvements.

The first fair at the present grounds opened on Oct. 1, 1913. The race track and lake were completed and there were baseball games, foot races and a "free for all" horse race. The grandstand was completed in 1914, stock pavilion in 1915, electric lights in 1921 and a new agricultural building in 1932.

In 1946, the Chautauqua Grounds were sold to the county commissioners for $9,000. A new 4-H building was built in 1953 and in the late 1950s, the dam for the lake was blown up and the lake drained. It was then filled in and turned into parking facilities.

The biggest change occurred in 1996 when the grounds were stripped for coal with core drilling indicating there was about 20,000 tons of marketable coal. The commissioners approved a contract with Valley Mining.

The coal was removed as well as the hill, trees and some buildings. Reclamation was complete in mid-July and tents were used for displays at fair time.

Since then four new buildings have been built. And last year, the 4-H committee and the county dairy board put up a concession stand near the commercial building for the sale of ice cream products and sandwiches, snacks and soft drinks.

The Harrison County Fair continues through Saturday at the fairgrounds.

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