Erie County Fair
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|Erie County Fair|
|Dates||August 12-23, 2020|
|Location(s)||Hamburg, New York|
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The Erie County Fair is a fair held in Hamburg in Erie County, New York every August. Based on 2018 attendance statistics, The Erie County Fair is the second largest fair in New York and the fourth largest county fair in North America, often drawing over one million in attendance.
The first Erie County Fair was held in 1820, and was hosted by the Niagara County Agricultural Society. The fair is the fourth largest county fair in the United States, with the 2019 fair setting an attendance record of 1,238,456. The Erie County fair's midway has been operated by Strates Shows for the last 95 years. The exclusive relationship between the Erie County Fair and the Strates Shows, is considered a historical milestone in the modern amusement industry.
In 2019, Strates Shows featured the classic double Ferris wheel called the “Sky Wheel” for its 95th anniversary with the Erie County Fair. This was the first time the show featured the Sky Wheel at the Erie County Fair in over 20 years.
The Erie County Agricultural Society is a private, not for profit membership corporation established in 1819, then called the Niagara County Horticultural Society. It held its first fair in 1820 on what is now the site of the Donovan Office Building in Buffalo. One year later, Niagara County split into Erie and Niagara Counties, and so did the agricultural society. The Erie County Agricultural Society is the oldest civic, community member organization in Erie County. The only time in the history of the fair where the event was not held was 1943 during World War II due to rationing of supplies for the war effort. The fair was briefly renamed America's Fair during the early to mid-2000s in an effort to expand the fair beyond Erie County; it has since been renamed the Erie County Fair. 2014 marked the 175th edition of the fair, and was celebrated with special events including a high wire walk by Nik Wallenda.
The region's first agricultural society was founded in 1819 with the goal of sponsoring a county fair to promote education and competition among farmers. This goal was realized when the first fairs were held on the Buffalo waterfront in 1820 and 1821. Dr. Cyrenius Chapin, one of Buffalo's most active energetic pioneers was elected President for the fledgling organization. The location was near Terrace and Main Streets, the current site of One Canalside (2014). Enthusiasm for the annual "Farmer’s Holiday" was shortcut when local farmers lost interest due to poor travel conditions, a downturn in the economy and the community's collective focus on the building of the Erie Canal. With the opening of the Canal in 1825, the Village of Buffalo quickly grew in size and economic stature becoming a city in 1832. After not holding a fair from 1822 through 1840, The Erie County Agricultural Society was re-activated in 1841 and sponsored a Fair held at Lafayette Square on the grounds of the Erie County Court House. So earnest were their endeavors that only once since 1841 has a year passed without a Fair. In 1943 the Fair was postponed due to World War II rationing of gasoline and other vital commodities.
The Fair would be held within the Buffalo city-limits until 1849 at which time urban expansion facilitated a move to a country location for the Fair. 1850 marked the first year that the Fair was held outside of the City of Buffalo making its debut in the Village of Aurora. Lancaster hosted the Fair September 9 and 10, 1851. Fairgoers were able to take specially scheduled trains for a fare of .25 cents from Buffalo at 9:30a & 12:30a and returning from Lancaster at 1p and 5p. 1852 saw the Fair held in East Hamburgh, now Orchard Park. The 1853 Fair was held on the enclosed grounds at Cold Spring October 7 & 8. The Fair returned to Aurora in 1854 and 1855.
The year 1855 was distinguished by two important circumstances in the history of the Ag society. First it was then for the first time, that admission fee of 12 ½ cents was imposed. Secondly, it was the year that famed newspaper editor and once candidate for President Horace Greeley spoke as a main attraction. Greeley is noted for his famous admonition, "Go west, young man, go west!" His speech at the Fair was a practical talk – on drainage, the use of tile and the canning of fruit which was just coming into vogue. An act of the State Legislature in April 1855 provided for the more thorough organization of Agricultural Societies. At a meeting of the Society, the group was technically dissolved and immediately reorganized under the act.
The Agricultural Society leased, for the term of ten years, a lot near the Indian Church which is now called Indian Church Road in South Buffalo near West Seneca and held its fair on September 26-26, 1856. In 1862, the minutes speak of holding the fair on the Society's grounds near Whitmore's tavern. As no record of a change of location can be found, this must refer to the grounds near the Indian Church. But in 1863 the site was evidently change and a committee was appointed to locate a site nearer the city on the premise that it would then be to the Society's interests and more acceptable to the citizens of Buffalo. In 1865, under the direction of Hiram White, the fair was held on the half-mile track at Cold Springs.
At a meeting held in September 1865 a resolution was passed to hold the fair in the town fitting up the necessary grounds and offering the best pecuniary inducements. At the annual meeting on January 10, 1866, an informal ballot upon the location of the next fair was taken. Springville received 38 and Aurora 13 votes, in consequence of which the fair that year was held at Springville on the grounds of the Union Agricultural Society. The Fair's nomadic ways would soon end as after the 1867 Springville Fair, the Agricultural Society would receive an offer that would change its history forever.
On January 9, 1868, Luther Titus of Hamburg went to the annual meeting at Springville and offered on behalf of the Hamburg Driving Park Association the use of its new half-mile track and grounds with office buildings and seats, free of charge for holding the next annual fair. By a vote of 18 to 17, the Fair moved to Hamburg and held its first exposition in 1868.
In the year 1881, the society purchased it first acres of land from Maria and Naomi Clark and George M. Pierce which is the present site of the Society's ground and the original site of the Hamburg Driving Park Association. Now with its own land, the Society began to develop the property into its permanent home.
The Erie County Agricultural Society held annual Fairs from 1841 through 1855. In 1856, the original Society was reorganized under a State legislative act and the Fair held in 1856 was again given the number "one." In 1937, the Board of Managers took action to incorporate the first 15 fairs plus one fair added to the count that was held in conjunction with the New York State Fair in 1856. In 1937, the 97th Fair was held. No fair was held in 1943 due to WWII. In 1963, after the pioneer fairs of 1820 & 1821 were fully documented, their numbers were to the official numbering system making the 1964 fair the 125th.
In 2014, the Erie County Agricultural Society held its 175th edition of the Fair.
On July 20, 2017 a tornado ripped through the Hamburg fairgrounds, shattering dozens of car windows, blowing tree branches and even a park bench onto a building. Damage to the fairgrounds was estimated at US 1.2 million. Repairs to the fairgrounds were completed in time and the 2017 fair was held as scheduled.
In 2017, the fair celebrated 30 years of the “Giant Wheel” ferris wheel, which is part of the Strates Shows traveling midway. The Giant Wheel continues to serve as a main icon of the fair, towering over the Strates Shows midway annually.
On August 19th, 2018 the attendance for the 179th Erie County Fair was just shy of 1.2 million visitors. This is the second highest attendance in fair history, behind the 2014 fair.
On August 18th, 2019 the attendance for the 180th Erie County Fair set the all time attendance record at 1,238,456 visitors which broke the previous record set back in 2014. The 180th Erie County Fair showed no signs of slowing down for future years, as attendance was up nearly 18,000 more visitors from the previous year of the fair. The 2019 fair featured new rides to commemorate the 95th anniversary with midway provider Strates Shows. The show featured new rides such as, the Frisbee, the Crazy Mouse roller coaster, and the legendary Sky Wheel which the show hasn’t featured in over 20 years.
The 181st Erie County Fair is set to run August 12-23rd, 2020.
Locations of Erie County Fair
|1820–1821||Buffalo (Main/Terrace; current site of Canalside One)|
|1841||Buffalo (Court House Grounds/Lafayette Square)|
|1842–1849||Buffalo (Ebenezer Johnson Property/Delaware Ave)|
|1852||East Hamburgh (Orchard Park)|
|1855||East Hamburgh (Orchard Park)|
|1856–1864||South Buffalo/West Seneca (Indian Church Road)|
|1865||Buffalo (Cold Springs)|
|1866||Springville (Dygert Farm)|
|1867||Springville (Union Fairgrounds)|
|1868–Present||Hamburg (Current site)|