The first fair in Allen County was held in the Village of Lima on October 21, 1851. As was typical of fairs in that day, no attendance counts were maintained. However, it was reported that “a vast throng” assembled on the Faurot Farm at the southwest edge of Lima. After that initial one-day event, a two-day fair was held annually in October at the same site through 1855. After a five year absence, the Allen County Agricultural Society was reorganized in 1860, due in large part to the insistence of a group of citizens aided by the local newspaper’s editorials chiding Allen County’s farmers for an absence of a county fair. Two-day fairs were again held annually at the Faurot Farm site through 1866. Beginning in 1867, the Allen County Fair was held on the Roberts Farm, east of Lima, at what would become the Lima Driving Park, and eventually the present site of Lima Memorial Hospital. From 1867 through 1881 the 30-acre site was rented from Josiah B. Roberts, until September 3, 1881, when the 30-acre site was purchased by the Allen County Agricultural Society.
During the period of 1897 through 1902, the Fair experienced five straight years of rain, resulting in devastating losses. Records show that at almost every meeting the principal subject under discussion was how to raise the necessary funds to carry on the fair. Repeated county levies failed, resulting in the sale of the Society property to the Lima Driving Park in 1903. The sale included a stipulation that the Allen County Agricultural Society be granted a twenty-year lease at an annual rent of $500 for the purpose of holding the county Fair.
The half mile track at the driving park was considered among the best in the United States hosting harness, automobile, and motorcycle races. From the early 1890’s until the last fair held there in 1921, the most celebrated harness horses of the nation appeared in competition at the Lima Track. Dan Patch, the legendary harness horse, appeared in an exhibition at the Allen County Fair in 1903 setting a new track record of 2:04. The famous pacer arrived in Lima in his own private railroad car.
Records show that the early fairs did not experience a large attendance. The 1869 records show that the fair secretary was authorized to produce 200 tickets for fifteen cents each for children under 15 years of age and 500 tickets at 25 cents each for adults. The Society membership was 81 members at $1 each.
When the lease at the driving park ran out, the fair was moved to the city of Delphos in the northwest corner of the county. For 27 years, from 1922 until 1948, the Allen County Fair was held as a street fair in the City of Delphos. It was during this time that the Junior Fair was organized, beginning in 1937. After WWII as the number of Junior Fair and other entries rose, the fair outgrew its home on the streets of Delphos. Residents and merchants alike objected to odors and waste products resulting from the expanding livestock numbers housed in tents on the street. The City of Delphos passed a referendum that the 1948 Allen County Fair would be the last one allowed on city streets. The Allen County Agricultural Society’s constitution was amended at this time to increase the Board of Directors from 11 to 18 directors, which is the size of the present board. The newly enlarged Board of Directors voted to move the fair, all society equipment (consisting of a dance pavilion, some chicken coops and some small tents, and its bank account containing $98.95) to Lima on a site east of town known as the Showgrounds. The 1949 Allen County Fair opened with 80,000 square feet under canvas and 35 acres of grounds bursting at the seams with exhibits and fair goers. It was in 1949 that the Junior Fair Board was first organized to oversee the expanding Junior Fair youth entries.
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