By Jack Daniels
The Lake County Agricultural Society was established in 1840. This is the same year that the Ohio Legislature allowed the northern portion of Geauga County to divide and form the smallest county in Ohio, Lake County. Although the activities of our society date back to the origins of the Geauga County Fair because members of our area participated in that Fair, the first County Fair of the new Lake County was held in 1850. The location of the Fairgrounds was on Bank Street east of Crossroads Veterinary Hospital Bldg. in the present site of the Cummings allotment. Members were given eight tickets to the Fair for one dollar. This also entitled them to free admission for their horses and carriages. No pool, or betting was allowed and the last day of the Fair was reserved for the sale or exchange of livestock.
In 1880 a premium was offered to the person bringing the most dog scalps but by 1885 the dog population was apparently reduced and the premium was offered for woodchuck scalps instead. There were plowing contests, displays of stoves, organs, homemade horseshoes, home tanned hides and homemade perfumes.
In 1894 the Fair Board asked the County Commissioners for financial assistance. The Commissioners readily recognized the need but the County Prosecutor ruled that money could not be expended for this purpose. They had no choice but to submit a bond issue for Fair activities to the electorate. The Fair was on hard times for it was still in the depression year of 1894 and the issue failed. The Lake County Agricultural Society disbanded at that time and reorganized in 1911 with greater financial support.
That same year they purchased property from various families at the present site and the first new Fair was held in 1912. The “Log Cabin” was built in 1915 with materials donated to the Fair Board by descendants of the original settlers of the county. When the gates were opened on the first County Fair to be held in eighteen years, more than 28,000 people scattered themselves around the sixty-five acres comprising the new fairgrounds. The realization slowly dawned that Lake County was one of the leaders in the United States in the development of blooded livestock of all varieties. Lake County, in 1912, was famed as the home of numerous steamship companies and the paradise of Cleveland industrialist “gentlemen farmers” who raised the most fancy grades of blooded livestock. The first new Fair exhibited more than half a million dollars worth of fancy cattle, thoroughbred horses, choicest hogs, best bred sheep and other kinds of fine blooded animals housed in the County. A Grandstand was constructed in 1913 but was destroyed by fire in 1964 and was subsequently rebuilt.
The Lake County Fair still enjoys the support of local industry and agriculture as well as that of the community at large. There are old buildings as well as new buildings reflecting the diverse nature of modern Lake County. There are buildings and activities that blend our combination of industry and agriculture to the best interests of both endeavors and, certainly, the best interests of Lake County, Ohio. Welcome to the Lake County Fair.