Portage County Randolph Fair

The first Randolph Fair was held on October 15, 1858, beside the road on Route 44. The vegetables, fruits, and grains were shown in the schoolhouse. Bela Hubbard, who was the first male citizen of Randolph in 1802, was made president of the first agricultural society in 1873. We have the recorded minutes of the meetings starting in 1871.

In years succeeding the first fair in 1858, the fair grounds were purchased and a permanent home established.

The fair started as a three-day event, then in the early 1900's became a two-day event. One fair in 1870 lasted only a few hours. It rained so hard that everyone packed up their displays and went home.

The admission price in 1858 was 10 cents per person and 10 cents per horse and buggy. One story in the minutes of the society was the terrible traffic jam which occurred when horses and buggies were tied to the fence on the drive coming into the fair, and no one could get past them to come into the fair.

In June of 1953, a spokesman for the area implement dealers asked about the possibility of holding a longer fair and allotting a space on the grounds for them to have each year in which to display. In September of 1954, the Portage County Implement Dealers were given a 300 ft. x 150 ft. space in which to display their implements. The Portage County Implement Dealers still display at the fair today.

When the Randolph Fair celebrated its 100th year in 1958, the following poem was published in the Eighth Annual Randolph Fair Edition.

Back in the days of long ago,
When Indian gents marched to and fro;
Back in the happy, dear old days,
When the sun through forests cast its rays;
When Hiawatha was not a dream,
And we hadn't the smell of gasoline;
Back to the time when maidens were real,
And not artificial from head to heel;
Back when roads of autos were bare,
They started the good old Randolph Fair;
God bless them all, they knew no fears,
Those sturdy old Randolph pioneers.
'Twas back in eighteen fifty-eight,
They tackled the job, and it's here to date.
Others have fallen, 'gainst faction or weather,
But the Randolph fair lives on forever.
It's a grand old fair, whith ne'er a peer,
And all the people are glad to be here.

At this time, in 1958, the price of admission had gone to 50 cents per person and 25 cents per car. A high light in the celebration of the 100th anniversary was an old fashioned parade. Awards were given in the following classifications: Older lady's dress, younger lady's dress, child's dress, best dressed couple, wedding dress, wedding suit, boy's clothes, baby's outfit (using old carriage if desired), Civil War Uniform, Spanish-American War Uniform, First World War Uniform and old fashioned hat or bonnet. These classifications were open to any resident of Portage County.

By the time our fair reached its 100th year, pony pulling and horse pulling were well established at the fair, and continue today. At that time we also held a livestock parade and fireworks. These have been discontinued from our fair.

Prize money was offered to exhibitors in 40 classifications, ranging from home made bread to horse pulling contests. The categories were set up to fit the interests of persons of all ages; from sheep and pigs and livestock, to grain and fruit displays, flower arrangements, home made quilts, oil paintings or fancy iced cakes. There was also a special setup arranged around 4-H youngsters in the county. Those classifications listed above still remain today with special venues for Junior Fair, which includes all young people participating in 4-H, FFA, FHA, or any other career group. School bands have always been a part of the fair and school booths are now a big part of our exhibits. Granges have also been with us since the beginning.

On September 11, 1959, the first tractor pull was held, including a "powder-puff" pull. These pulls continue today with the exception of the powder-puff pull. Today, women compete against men. In the last few years we have added the Ohio State Tractor Pullers Association pull to our entertainment.

A steer sale was started in 1962. This sale has grown and now includes almost all animals that come to the fair including turkeys, rabbits, and chickens. The livestock sale is a very big part of our fair which takes the entire day of Saturday.

A Junior Fair Queen contest was started in 1963 and in 1966 it became a Junior Fair King and Queen contest. This contest remains today with the King and Queen being crowned during the opening ceremonies of the fair.

Until 1964-1965, it was necessary for us to get a loan for start-up money for each fair as our society had no funds. One of our directors would take a loan out against his farm and let the fair use it to hold the next fair.

1972 was the year we adopted the name of Portage County Agricultural Society, Randolph Fair. That year they had two premium books, one for Portage County Agricultural Society and one for the 114th Randolph Fair. We are known today as the Portage County Agricultural Society, DBA\Randolph Fair. We are still independently owned and operated.

By 1972, demo derbies were being held at our fair, and today our fair still has two nights of the demo derbies - standing room only. We held a "Portage County Only" derby night for years, but have discontinued that at this time.

In 1973, we achieved a major accomplishment by starting a Junior Fair Board. This group has grown by leaps and bounds over the years and have become an important part of our fair. They have their own office on the grounds, which they maintain themselves. They give out help to anyone who need it before, during and after the fair not just the nice jobs but many of the very dirty ones. they also man the information booth during the fair. In December of 1998, we held a 25th anniversary party to recognize this group, not just the current members but all the past members that we could locate. It was our way of saying "Thanks!" for a job well done.

Over our 140 years many changes have taken place, too. numerous to mention in these pages. Most changes were slowly added, such as the days of our fair. It started with one-day fair, then grew to a two-day fair, and finally a three-day fair moving from October to September. In 1963, we settled on August as the month for our fair and went to four days; five days in 1969 and 6 days in 1975. We have remained a six-day fair in August since then.

For these 140 years we have been very active in updating the property and the buildings, some each year, until we now have a fairgrounds that each and every director and officer is proud of. We now have 40 buildings and barns plus the food booths and restrooms. Our newest buildings include the Main Office with offices for the President, Secretary and Treasurer as well as the Concession Manager, Inside and Outside Merchants, a meeting room with a kitchenette and a conference room. We also built a new building which houses the floral, fine arts, kitchen and woodworking exhibits. It is built like an H and the other half of the H is the entertainment center which also houses all the Senior Citizens activities during the fair. Finally, we added a building for the Granges, vegetables, fruits, canned goods, grains and seeds as well as all the Junior Fair non-livestock displays including the FFA, FHA and Career clubs. All of our buildings are used during the winter months for storage of vehicles of all kinds.

Submitted by the Portage County Agricultural Society.

In 1993, we had a fair logo designed which we now use on stationary, premium books, programs and advertising materials, anything related to our fair. The 21 stars represent the 21 directors on our fair board.

Our fairgrounds consists of 85 acres with approximately 50 acres being used for parking. Our fair is then held on the remaining 35 acres.