HAMILTON, Ohio — In 1889, a ticket to Ohio’s Butler County Fair cost 50 cents. It was $1 for a family, and ladies on foot were admitted free. This is just one of the fascinating fair facts one can learn at the newly opened Butler County Fair historical display.
In that same year, a couple could get married at the fair – the Agricultural Society paid for the marriage license and the minister. The first couple to do so received a $50 bedroom set; the second couple, an extension table with six chairs; and the third were awarded $15 in gold.
A grant from the W E Smith Family Charitable Trust made the historical display possible, said Julie Dalzell, junior fair coordinator, who has been assembling the artifacts along with her husband, volunteer Jim Dalzell.
The Butler County Agricultural Society held its first gathering around the public square in Hamilton on Oct. 13-14, 1836, Dalzell said. Exhibits included hoes, scythes, sickles and grain tables. There were a few exhibits of produce and livestock.
In 1852, the fair moved to nearby Bigham Grove, where it was until 1856 when the agricultural society purchased about 39 acres at the current site in Fairfield Township for $3,700. The grounds now cover 54 acres.
"They built the half-mile racetrack at a cost of $795, I’m guessing it was in the 1870s," said Fair Manager Dan Martin. "The present grandstand was completed in 1913. It was the first grandstand built out of Portland Cement east of the Mississippi. We had a wooden grandstand before then; it burned down."
The seats in the grandstand are from Crosley Field, a Major League baseball stadium and home to the Cincinnati Reds from 1912-70, Dalzell said. The fair board bought the seats when Crosley Field was torn down, and visitors to the fair are still using those seats.
4-H came to the fair in 1916. A.B. Graham, the founder of 4-H, was from Butler County, Martin said. Ironically, the premiums paid out to prize winners at the fair in 1863 were not much different from what winners receive now, he added. "In the produce, they paid like $2 or $3 for first place, and that is about what we’re paying now," Martin said. "People enter for the fun of doing it, and we appreciate that. It is a friendly competition."
The Dalzells and Martin want to continue to add to the historical display. Jim Dalzell said the items could be offered for display, and the owners could have them back.
"If anybody has an artifact or photos or newspaper articles from the late 1800s or early 1900s, we would like to put them on display and recognize those people," Martin said. "History, to me, is a very important part of our society and the fair. There seems to be a tendency to forget about those kinds of things."