First Fair In Albany County Was Called the Agricultural Jubilee or Ploughboy's Holiday. The year was 1819 and the event was Sponsored By The Albany Agricultural Society.
From then until 1892, fairs were held in Albany and other surrounding towns, such as Bethlehem Center and Slingerlands.
On August 6, 1892, a public meeting was appointed to investigate the possibilities of holding the annual fair at a permanent location in Altamont.
The Altamont Driving Park and Fair Association was incorporated on May 20, 1893. At a meeting held on that day, the Board of Directors voted to accept the plans drawn by Howard P. Foster for a Grandstand (which would be the first permanent structure on the fairgrounds) and also instructed him to draw up plans for a Front Gate. The Board also appointed a committee to purchase property for the permanent site of the Fair. The following information was obtained from the Society's original minutes of the meetings of the Board of Directors. Bids for the construction of the Grandstand and Front Gate were opened on June 10, 1893 and were awarded to the low bidder, H. P. Foster, in the amount of $1,975 for the Grandstand and $115 for the entrance gate, for a total bid of $2,090. The contractor was required to have work completed on these two buildings by August 20, 1893 and to prime them with linseed oil and yellow ochre upon completion. Although Mr. Foster was unable to complete the project, the minutes show that the project was completed on time. (The original Grandstand is now the Poultry Building and the two restrooms located on either side of the Grand Street gate to the fairgrounds are what remain of the original Front Gate. One of the buildings was the Secretary's Office and the other was the Treasurer's Office.)
On June 10, 1893 , the Board of Directors also approved the purchase 24.5 acres of land in Altamont originally owned by George Severson now held in trust by Isaac Reamer to be known as the "Altamont Fair Grounds." This is the site of the present fairgrounds.
The first fair to be held at the Altamont location was from September 12 through 15, 1893. Admission was 25 cents for adults, and the net receipts for the four days was $884.13. A racetrack was built in front of the Grandstand, and horse racing was held at the first fair and continued at the Altamont Fair until the mid 1990's.
In 1896 the Board of Directors appointed a committee to travel to the Cobleskill Fairgrounds to obtain plans and cost estimates of duplicating Cobleskill's two story, 100' by 80' Fair Building to be used at Altamont for the "exhibition of Domestic, Manufacture Art and Fancy Work and Fruits and Vegetables." While they were unable to obtain a copy of Cobleskill's plans and specifications, the committee estimated that they could erect a a similar building for "about $2,000."
On June `6, 1896 the Board accepted the low bid of $2,146 for the construction of the Exhibition Hall. The bid included the stipulation that the contractor uses the best quality of A#1 slate on the roof. On August 26, 1896 the Board examined the completed Exhibition Hall and voted to approve and accept the structure, which thy felt had been built with "superior workmanship." This building is now known as the Flower & Fine Arts a Building and has recently been named to the State and National Register of Historic Sites.
In 1897, the Altamont Driving Park and Fair Association changed its name to the Albany County Agricultural Society and Exposition. Over the next 20 years, more property was acquired and more buildings were constructed, including the Poultry Building in 1899 for $1,322 and a Ladies' Building (now the Vegetable Building ) in 1901 for $875.85. Many other buildings are mentioned in the old minutes can no longer be recognized.
Auto racing was first held in 1910, when the Fair held a five-mile race with purses of $25, $15 and $10 for the first, second and third place winners. This continued to be an important part of the Fair's history for over thirty years. In 1915, automobiles were entered for the first time to compete for premiums.
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