From the past to the present


A historical perspective of the Fayette County Fair

By Phil Grover



The first Fayette County Jr. Fair Board was organized Jan. 27, 1955. The officers were Roger Gorman, president; Karma Kay Knox Breedlove, vice president; Francis Turner, secretary; Marvin Smith treasurer; and Portia Brownell Cunningham, News Reporter.

Other members were Paul Hughes and Danny Schlichter, representing the Washington High School FFA, Marilyn Writsel of the Washington High School FHA; Marvin Smith and Ron Sears of the Jeffersonville FFA, Beverly Sears of the Jeffersonville FHA, Peggy Riley of the Wayne High School FHA Chapter. There were 13 members representing the 4-H Clubs of the County. They were Barbara Sue Kneisley Wilt, Sally Reiff Dickey, Marilyn Heistand, Gene Gustin, Bob Rife, David Whiteside, Pete Rife, Gary Cockerill, Roger Bonham, Roger Gorman, Kama Kay Knox, Portia Brownell, and Francis Turner. A total of 20 members. Extension Agent Albert Cobb was the advisor to the group.

Cobb left Fayette Count that spring to become the Extension Agent in Putnam County. I arrived, fresh out of college, as the Associate County Agent, on July 1, 1955. It was my pleasure to work with that first Jr. Fair Board. At least half of those original 20 spent most of their adult life in Fayette County. Their children and grandchildren have participated in the Fayette County Fair. Some of these second and third generations have been 4-H advisors and even members of the Jr. Fair Board. I am pleased that our granddaughter, Mary Myers, had the opportunity to serve as the 50th Jr. Fair Board president last year

The first president, Roger Gorman and the first Jr. Fair Queen, Sally Reiff were invited to assist with the opening ceremony however they were unable to be here due to previous commitments. Roger said he “was very proud to have been the first Jr. Fair Board president and wished everyone a successful Fair.” Sally thought it would have been “really neat to return and crown the new Queen.” I do notice Karma Kay Knox Breedlove, the vice president of that first Jr. Fair Board here in the audience.

Fifty years ago, the Fayette County Fairgrounds looked much different than it appears today.

1) The Fair Board did not own the grounds on which the fair was held.

2) The Show Arena did not exist.

3) The Mahan Hall had not been built.

4) The 4-H Horse Barn was not built until 1960.

5) The Jr. Fair Board Office was located in the little shed which is attached to the current Poultry & Rabbit Building, which at that time housed all the steers. Each year there was some terrific competition for the Grand Champion Steer with nearly 100 steers in the competition

6) In those days we only had a steer sale auction. Pigs and lambs were sold in groups on paper and brought a little more than market price. The lamb and pig sales were somewhat reluctantly approved by the Sr. Fair Board on a trial basis about 1956. The small animal sale was added many years later mostly through the efforts of Wayne Arnold and Dr. Frank Breedlove. The three nights of sales have been a major feature of the Fair for many years.

7) Oh, yes. The current beef and dairy barns have been added in recent years. We showed all livestock under tents and did they get hot!

How these buildings got built and why things changed has many fascinating twists, turns, and scenarios. Time will not permit me to relate those stories but it has been a most interesting series of historical developments, especially for those of us who have been a part of it.

Fifty years ago, the County Fair was the biggest social event of the year, just as it is today. Many hard working and creative Jr. & Sr. Fair Board members, Home Economics & Vo-Ag teachers,4-H Advisors, elected officials and others all working together, have brought the Fair” from the glorious past to the exciting present.”

Long live the Fayette County Fair!

UPDATE JULY 2015

Many changes have taken place in the past 10 years. These include the erection of two livestock barns, both 60 x 200 feet to replace the cattle barn and the small animal barn. These join the swine barn, erected in 2008, and the sheep barn built in 2009 to make for a very nice livestock barn arrangement. These facilities are used throughout the year for jackpot shows and livestock sales.

The Mahan Hall and attached buildings have been remodeled this year and are being used by many community organizations.

A historical perspective of the Fayette County Fair

By Phil Grover

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