The Hancock County Fair was first talked of in 1851. The first fair was organized and held Oct. 15-16, 1852 on rented ground at the west end of Fair Street. The only remains of the fair is the name of the street. In the 1880’s this was the location of Bruner’s Brick Yard. Now it is the location of Brandman’s Salvage Yard. Premiums the first year were $99.12. The Fair was held here through 1858, at which time, it was out of debt and had $100 in the treasury.
A permanent location was purchased in February 1859 from J.H. Wilson; 8 acres in the northeast corner of South Blanchard St. and Blanchard Ave. The cost of the land was $100 per acre to be paid in 3 payments. (This location is shown on the 1863 wall map.) The first Fair held at this location was Oct. 5, 6, and 7, 1859, and the last in 1867. The grounds were sold to Samuel Hoxten, May 20, 1868 for $1,750.
The fairgrounds were used for training of volunteers during the Civil War, and was called Camp Neibling in honor of Col. James M Neibling. Due to larger attendance and interest a new site was needed. So on, Oct 1, 2 and 3, 1868, the Fair was held on 29 acres of ground purchased from Timothy Russell and John Powell for $3,000, located about 1 mile south of the Courthouse on the west side of Main St., in what is now the W. McPherson area. Additions were made until a total of 35 acres (valued at $6,600) in land and $4,000 in buildings was reached. This was one of the most beautiful Fair sites in the state at that time, and was a financial success. An offer of $26,600 for these grounds couldn’t be refused, so the fairground was sold July 9, 1890.
Agriculture Report for Hancock County from 1888 Book of Ohio State board of Agriculture
The 37th annual fair for this county was held upon the grounds of the society at Findlay on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, September 12, 13, 14, and 15, 1888, and while not the success financially that the managers had hoped for, yet the receipts compared favorable with the receipts of former years, and were sufficient to pay the premiums, the current expenses, the Attorney’s fees, etc., in condemnation suit brought by the NY., M & W R’y Co., the debts carried over from last year, and leaving a balance on hand.
There was a large increase in the number of entries in the several classes of horses. Our farmers are giving a great deal of attention to the rearing for good horses, especially draft horses. A very fine lot of horses was shown this year.
The exhibit of cattle in the several classes was not so large as last year. Among those exhibited were several very fine herds of Short Horns, Devons, Jerseys and Grades.
In all classes of sheep there were 75 entries, and of these there were some very fine specimens of Marinos, but the greater number were of the larger breeds, chiefly Shropshire Downs and a finer lot of sheep was never shown at our fair.
There was a good exhibit of swine, though there were not so many entries as in former years.
The display in the poultry department was very fine – by far the largest and finest display ever made at our county fair.
The display of farm products, canned fruit, etc., was very good.
The display of grain, seeds and vegetables was not so large as at former fairs, due largely to the fact that our fair this year was held several weeks earlier than heretofore.
In the class of machinery and manufacturers products we had a very good display.
Condition of Agriculture
The season of 1888 was favorable for all crops except wheat. The wheat crop was rather light for this county. The corn crop was probably as large as any ever raised in this county. The oats crop about an average. Potatoes about an average crop. Fruit, a good yield.
The hay crop will compare very favorably with the yield of former years. Large quantities of hay are bailed and shipped out of the county each year.
The shipments out of the county of grain, seeds, hay, wool, poultry, butter, eggs and live stock are annually very large.
The discovery of gas and oil has wrought a great change in this county, and Findlay, the county seat, is fast becoming a great manufacturing center, and now has a population of about 20,000 inhabitants. The amount annually received by our farmers as royalties and rentals on gas and oil is very large, and adds very materially to the wealth of the county.
A new site one mile further south was purchased from J.G. Hull for $10,500 consisting of 70 acres laying from S. Main St., west to Western Ave. This was improved with double rows of elm trees and expensive buildings, and the first fair was held here in 1891. Near the East entrance there was a large bank barn, left from the former owner. Near this were a lot of the test plots planted to agricultural products. This barn was later torn down and moved to a Rader farm in Portage township. At this time, the city streetcars only went to Olive Street. This entailed much walking to get to and see the Fair, which made some people dissatisfied. A Fair was held at this location until financial problems caused its closing in 1916. Many years later as new homes were being built in this area, owners could tell where the race trace had been because things didn’t grow as well. This was also noticeable from an airplane.
In the late teens, the Findlay Driving Park was established by private individuals on 67 acres between the Riverside Park reservoir, Route #224, McManness Ave., and Woodworth Drive. They had a grandstand and racetrack. A new organization, The Hancock County Fair Co., took over this location and added more buildings with red clay tile roofs, and held fairs here from 1919 through 1923. Because of a debt of $40,000, the fair did not open in 1924. Today, in the northwest corner of the intersection of Country Club Drive and Glen Road, remains a 2 ft. sq. by 5 ft high stone pillar which was the west post of the entrance arch to the fairgrounds. There was a Boys and Girls Club formed which increased the interest in this fair. Some of the local boys remember playing at the fairgrounds. A large drainage tile going to the river could be walked through and they could fly their kites while laying on the clay tile roofs. One remembers going to this fair with his grandfather and seeing a dare-devil stunt…..a man being run over by a Model T-Ford.
These buildings were torn down, and many stones and debris are still found in this area. In 1930, Roll A. Timmerman of Portage Twp. Road 97 northwest of Findlay obtained some of the red clay tile and used it for a roof on his newly constructed brick home.
After the closing of this fair, a farm team of the Brown’s Baseball Club had a ballpark on part of this area.
1938 – 1989
October 13, 14 and 15, 1938 was the date of the first Hancock County Agricultural Society’s County Fair held here on “The Old Millstream Fairgrounds,” located at 1107 E. Sandusky St. Findlay, Ohio. There had been no fair since 1923.
A Findlay physician, Dr. Charles Oesterlen, was the owner of this ground in 1884 when the first gas well in Hancock County was drilled. The well, 1092 feet deep, produced at that time 250,000 cu. Ft. of gas per 24 hours. The well site with a suitable plaque is located behind the present Merchant’s Building. All the fairground land and buildings are owned by the Agricultural Society.
Tell Taylor, a native of the Vanlue area and notable singer and song composer, of which the most famous is “Down By the Old Millstream”, bought 117 acres for $7,360 from John C. and Lydia Tritch. The Tritch’s were relatives of Dr. Oesterlen. This ground was to be a home for Tell Taylor’s parents. In 1929, he laid out a golf course on this farm called “Old Millstream Links”. In 1934, part of this ground was deeded to Findlay College for the price of $7592. In 1935, a Colt and Livestock show was held at R.C. Firestine Farm on 6th St. In 1936 and 1937, it was moved to the present fairgrounds.
March 26, 1938, the Hancock County Agricultural Society reorganized. In 1942, during World War II, there was no fair held. September 10 and 11, 1943, there was a Junior fair held. Now in 1989, we are celebrating 50 years of the Hancock County Fair being held at this location. This is the 6th location where fairs have been in Hancock County.
A flood hit Hancock County two weeks before our fair. Eighteen inches of water filled the Senior Fair Office and debris was everywhere. The directors, office staff and many, many volunteers came to the grounds and everthing was cleaned up for the fair. This ended up being one of our cleanest fairs and we thank all of those who assisted. Following the fair, the staff of the Senior Fair Office moved into our Junior Fair trailer as that office needed to be gutted due to the water damage. The office was completely redone by members of the board, with oak trim and newly built oak desks. In 2010, renovations began in the Show Arena Building. The inside walls were painted white, new bleachers were purchased & installed and a new show arena was constructed. To fund these renovations a Reverse Raffle was held, advertising was offered and donations were accepted. In 2011, we hope to install all new doors and put in new ceiling fans for ventilation.
Hancock County Junior Fair Begins
Fairgrounds, Findlay, Ohio – September 10-11, 1943
War has caused changes in many plans. The Hancock County Agricultural Society used its best judgement in discontinuing the Fair of 1942 and again exercised that judgement by granting a Junior Fair in 1943. Realizing that conservation of labor, time, tires, and gasoline was necessary and that winning the war was our first duty, the Board took this necessary action. They ask for your continued cooperation; then work for a speedy victory and then hope that when the war is over the public will rally to the revival of the Fair program.
We invite you to attend our Junior Fair on September 10-11 and hope that we have something very worthwhile to show you. The boys and girls of Hancock County in 4-H club work and Vocational Agriculture have done in a marvelous piece of work in maintaining their end of the Food-for-Victory Program.
Very sincerely yours,
Forest G. Hall, County Agricultural Agent
Originally, 53 ½ acres were purchased in 1945 from Findlay College for $8,000. In 1945, 13 more acres were purchased for $4,000. Other small acreages have been obtained and the society now owns nearly 75 acres. Across the present fairgrounds is the old railroad bed for the Mad River & Lake Erie Railroad Company, established as the first railroad in Hancock County. It was opened December, 1848, coming from Carey through Vanlue and into Findlay. It was abandoned in 1934. Part of the quarried stone bridge abutment can still (with the date of 1895) be seen where it crossed Lye Creek.
The first permanent buildings were a 24 x 172 Draft Horse Barn, now a beef barn, obtained from the Ebenezer Mennonite Church near Bluffton, Ohio. It was built there in 1910 and used as a horse and buggy shelter during church services. It was taken apart by sections, loaded on trucks and wagons, (almost a mile in length) hauled into the fairgrounds, and reassembled. The present rabbit building, first used as a hog barn, was obtained from the Mennonite Reformed Church, also near Bluffton, Ohio. It had been an open-sided horse shelter. In 1939, the old office building, bought from Fostoria Board of Education, was moved in, the first section of the North grandstand was erected, and a 32 x 132 Arts building and a 24 x 132 livestock building were built. 1944 saw the purchase of the old baseball grandstand from north of Riverside Park, moved and attached to the North Grandstand on the fairgrounds. This building was damaged by fire, October 31, 1978. It was completely destroyed by a fire, December 7, 1978.
Forest G. Hall Fairgrounds Memorial Park
The dedication of the Forest G. Hall Fairgrounds Memorial Park on Thursday, Sept. 1, 1977, marked a fitting and well-deserved tribute to a man who will long be remembered in agricultural circles in this area.
Hall not only devoted his life to agriculture through the medium of the extension service but he was a moving force behind the rebirth of the Hancock County fair, which faltered and disappeared in 1924. The fair as it is today is largely the result of Hall’s efforts.
Although he retired on the last day of 1955 after a long career with the extension service, Hall continued to serve on behalf of many interests he promoted in the field of agriculture.
His work in 4-H boosted that organization from a mere handful when he first came to Hancock County in 1923 to more than a thousand when he retired.
The park location near the office on the fairgrounds is a pleasant and continuing reminder to all fair goers that Forest G. Hall was one of the real founders of the fair.