History of the Allegan County Fair
The Early Years
1852: The Allegan County Agricultural Society was organized by Elisha Ely. The first fair was held at the County Court House, which was also the Baptist Church.
1854: The fair moved from the Court House to ‘the flats’
1856: The Board of Supervisors purchased eight acres in the current fairgrounds area.
1859: The first Exhibition Hall was built.
1860: The race track and grandstand were built.
1874: The Allegan County Agricultural Society purchased approximately 20 acres adjacent to the original purchase of land, now totaling approximately 30 acres.
1889: The first and only fair in Michigan to hold an evening fair. This was quite an attraction, seeing as the grounds and buildings were lit with 2000 candlepower arc lamps. The currency was furnished through the village from the Trowbridge Dam. Headline attractions included The Great Houdini and the Wonderful Douglas, who buried a man alive.
Construction and Expansion
1990: One of the largest projects to date was the construction of the covered grandstand. With the track and grandstand area, the fair has a 12,000 seat capacity in front of the stage.
1999: A 1600 square foot addition was made to the stage, and a 3000 square foot backstage building was erected to accommodate performers and their entourage. It is a state of the art facility that features dressing rooms, showers, and offices for the entertainer’s use.
2000-2011: Over the years the Allegan County Fair has continued to grow. The fairgrounds property currently consists of approximately 115 acres of land, including a public campground. Among the buildings is one of the largest livestock barns and arenas of any county fair in the state- an indoor exhibit hall complex that is enclosed with over 38,000 square feet under one roof.
2011 and beyond
In the southwest area of the grounds you can experience a step back in time in the John Paul Historical Village. There, you will find a variety of building types and time periods. These buildings were moved here and re-assembled to become permanent structures at the Allegan County Fair.
Agriculture has been the backbone of the Allegan County Fair since the beginning. The 4H clubs, 4H members, and open class participants agricultural activities remain strong to this day. Animals, crafts, foods and antiques are judged daily at the fair.
Looking over the fair’s history, it is obvious that the founders of the fair strived for growth- which still holds true today. It is why the Allegan County Fair is one of the largest fairs in the State of Michigan, and why USA Today named the Allegan County Fair the most popular county fair in Michigan.
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