Today’s fair traces its roots back to October 7 and 8, 1851, when the Agricultural Society for Defiance County gathered cattle, hogs, horses, and fowl, on Dr. Colby’s lot on the north side of the Maumee in Defiance. Fruit and other articles were displayed at the courthouse. Eventually, this fair disbanded.
With the Edgerton family’s donation of a Hicksville site, area citizens put together a September exhibition under the auspices of The Northwestern Ohio and Northeastern Indiana District Agricultural Association. Paulding County’s Carryall Township, Indiana’s Scipio, Newville, and Concord Townships, and Defiance County’s Farm, Mark, Milford, and Hicksville Townships contributed exhibits.
The centennial edition of the Defiance County Fair Premium Book (1992) included accounts of those earlier fairs: “There was no running water on the fairgrounds, and an old iron pump was kept busy. The floral hall had four entrances and wings with a large rotunda for plants in the center. In this hall, fancy work was displayed, also the merchants and the music store kept their wares. The only rides were the merry-go-round run by little steam engines and the ferris wheel. The horses rocked with a quick jerk. The rides were 5 and 10 cents.”
Another fair-goer offered muddier midway memories: “There were no gravel walks and the fair was always at the rainy season. There were snake shows, baby racks, shooting galleries, ring-a-canes, etc. Novelty stands with whips, canes, balloons, come back balls, squawkers, and big spiders with coiled wire legs. There were refreshment stands and you might hear one call ‘Hokey Pokey—Ice Cream.’ After dinner, harness races started. There were no starting gates. When the judge thought they were bunched well, he would yell, ‘Go!’ and the race was on. Between each race there was a free act in the center field. At the close of the harness races, there was a foot race.”
Center field attractions included Hicksville’s men’s and Hart’s Girl Band, solo acts, and S. Noffsinger’s Sherwood Band. Buffalo Bill, high wire acts, fireworks, balloon ascensions, and livestock parades entertained. “Hicksville’s star actress, Amelia Bingham, always came home for the fair. Everyone knew she was coming since Mr. Bingham came ahead and painted the trunks of the trees in front of the Swilley Hotel with a red heart near the top.
“Due to no electricity, there was no night fair. The Cutter Stock Company or the Earl Stock Company played the whole week at the Huber Opera House.” As time passed, the Defiance County Fair changed in some ways and stayed the same in others. “Thus the old fair has come and gone. The new fair will soon be here.”
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