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Wooster Digital History Project

Evolution of the Wayne County Fair

When people envision the Wayne County Fair today, they imagine a grandiose spectacle that has events for the entire family. However, it didn't start this way, as evidenced by the inaugural fair in 1850. The budget was small, and the reasons for the fair were for economic development rather than community building This meant the implementation of the fair, which was a period of time set aside, usually a few days, in which farmers from the local area would gather in a centralized location to participate in displaying their wares. Records for premiums, or prizes, awarded at the first fair also reveal one of the first times in Wooster’s history in which farmers of the area began to record in detail their methods for public consumption. Awards were given for the highest quality agricultural products, some of the categories including cattle, poultry, wheat crop, field crop, domestic manufacturing, and needle work.1

The Wayne County Fair has been going on ever since, and in the more than 150 years since its inception, it has been able to persevere through many hardships. An early example of this was barely ten years after the beginning of the fair, when many of the local men were fighting for the Union in the American Civil War.2 The trend continued during the Great Depression and as men went to fight in the First and Second World Wars. In fact, the only year in which the fair was not held was 1952, when many public events were cancelled because of a polio outbreak in Wayne and Medina counties.34 The fact that the fair keeps going even during some of the darkest times speaks to its importance to Wooster as a central part of the community.

Over time, the fair started to become more sophisticated in its events and attractionsThis happened as the years passed and Wayne County began to undergo gentrification and economic changes. With the creation of the college and the development of a downtown, people were coming to Wooster who were not necessarily interested in farming and agricultural displays. Consequently, there was a need to start including events that could attract a higher percentage of citizens. In order to keep Woostonians coming, the fair has managed to expand to include nonagricultural attractions, including games, rides, and performance. A longstanding tradition, the fair succeeds because it is able to incorporate "a good bit of everything for everyone."6

1 Ohio Agricultural Report: Report of the Wayne County Agricultural Society, 1850.
2 "County Fair Successful From Start, 100 Years Ago,” The Wooster Daily Record, September 6, 1949, 2.
3 Earl E. Kleinschmidt, Mabel Abbott and E. Ilah Kauffman, "The Health Department and Poliomyelitis: Administrative Factors in the 1952 Outbreak in Wayne and Medina Counties, Ohio,"  Public Health Reports (1896-1970) 67, no. 11 (1952): 1109-1114. doi:10.2307/4588296.
4 Paul Locher, "Wayne Fair's secretary celebrates 25th anniversary of county's biggest annual reunion," The Daily Record, September 13, 2010, , accessed June 03, 2017, http://www.the-daily-record.com/local%20news/2010/09/13/wayne-fair-s-secretary-celebrates-25th-anniversary-of-county-s-biggest-annual-reunion.
5 “County Fair Successful From Start.”
6 "Secretary celebrates 25th anniversary."