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From the Campbell County History News - October 1997


Early Alexandria Fair Scenes - photo did not appear in newsletter
  Used with permission from Northern Kentucky Views (http://www.nkyviews.com/campbell/newport980.htm)

Since 1856, the Alexandria Fair has provided memories to many Campbell Countians. The roots of the Alexandria Fair go all the way back to 1856 when some early Campbell County citizens formed the Campbell County Agriculture Society. These proud citizens wanted a yearly event to show off and exhibit their crops, livestock, domestic talents, horses, and riding abilities.

The official birthday of the fair is June 7, 1856, the day the Agricultural Society organized itself into a corporation. A constitution of 14 articles was adopted and the following officers were elected: Benjamin Smith, president; Thomas L. Jones, vice president; Benjamin Beall, Secretary; George W. Reiley, Treasurer; and managers Edwin Morin, Joseph Shaw, Charles Murnan, Alexander Caldwell, James T. Berry, Col James Taylor, John Hattersheiot, Frank Spillman, Henry Blattner, and Dr. H. K. Rachford.

At the first board meeting, members moved to select a suitable location for the fairgrounds. A committee reported that 10 acres of land laying northeast and adjacent to Alexandria could be secured from John Stevens for $500. The president was directed to buy the land.

The board then purchased 25,000 feet of hemlock lumber for construction of the fairgrounds. The material was transported up the Ohio River to the mouth of Twelve Mile Creek and was hauled from there to the fairgrounds. An arena was built at a cost of $1000 by Benjamin Smith, Joseph Shaw, and Frank Spillman. It stood until it was replaced in the late 1940s.

Upon completion of the original arena, barns holding 75 stalls were built to house the cattle and horses to be exhibited at the Fair. October 14 to 16 were the dates set for the very first fair.

The Board members were so pleased with the turnout that at the conclusion of the fair, they voted and decided the Alexandria Fair would be an annual event, with opening day of the next Fair set for September 27, 1857.

The Campbell County Agriculture Society was incorporated with capital stock of $5000 by an act of the Kentucky General Assembly on January 28, 1858. The cooperators of the Society were Benjamin Smith, Alexander Caldwell, John T. Parker, Thomas Jones, Samuel McIntosh, Samuel Wright, Benjamin F. Riles, Henry Blattner, Edward Morin, Frederick Brown, Daniel Pollock, Benjamin Beall, Samuel Smith, and Foster Byrd.

The Campbell County Agriculture Society and the Alexandria Fair were founded by private individuals and they remain as non-profit all-volunteer entities.

Local residents and fair board members were so determined to keep the event going that only a Civil War would hinder the presentation of the fair. It was during this period of time that the subject of handling Confederate money occupied the attention of the board of directors. Disposition of this money was placed in the hands of committee members James Horner, Charles Murnan, and Joseph White. During the Civil War, John C. Youtsey acted as president of the Fair Board.

In 1866, the popular Floral Hall, later to be known as the Exhibit Hall, was build by Frank Spillman. Farmers would often display their exhibits in entire barrels that were cut in half. Visitors could go through the Floral Hall and see molasses, honey, flour, and other commodities displayed.

Throughout the years, the Fair Board endeavered to present novel entertainments for fair-goers, In 1875, the Silver Cornet Band of New Richmond, Ohio was a hit at the Fair. A ring of buffaloes was shown at the fair in 1876, causing a stir and proving a good drawing card.

The Agriculture Society was always the driving force behind the fair. The Fair became a chance for farmers to show off their harvests and best animals, and to socialize. The Fairs early appeal was to farmers, but with the invention of the Automobile, people from the city started to attend the Fair as well.

The Fair grew steadily into the twentieth century, and drew people from all over northern Kentucky and Cincinnati. Part of the fair’s success was attributed to the fine saddle horses and cattle, along with the agriculture exhibits. They were and are among the finest in the state.

Another element of the Fair’s success was due to the festive family atmosphere apparent each year. Fair-goers might arrive in a horse and buggy, tether the horse beneath the trees for the rest of the day, enjoy a day’s worth of fun, and return the next day. Visitors would spend all day at the Fair, but leave at dark; electric lights were not installed until the late 1930’s. Nonetheless, people looked forward to the Fair all summer long.

Everyone has his or her favorite recollections of the Fair. For some, it was the merry-go-round, the carnival atmosphere, walking aong the promenade of the arena, the grounds with the large shade trees, or the music from various bands. For others, the food was the main attraction: dinners at the dining hall, popcorn, soft drinks, sandwiches, and other treats. Many recall the horse show, especially the popular and exciting roadster rings.

During World War I and into the 1920s, the Fair fell on hard financial times, but under the leadership of George Moock, a dairy man from Southgate and Herman Carman of Ft. Thomas, the Fair thrived once again. Moock, elected president in 1929, surrounded himself with an enterprising board of progressive farmers and businessmen and set to work to restore the Fair and its old-time activities. So great was the resurgence that the board officers were honored by the presence of Kentucky Governor Flem D. Sampson in 1930.

For some, the Fair had an even greater importance in the 1930s. During the Depression, it was a gathering place for people to meet and enjoy inexpensive entertainment. Between 1933 and 1947, many improvements were made to the Fair. In October 1947, the Board moved to construct a new grandstand, and it was completed in time for the 1948 fair.

Beginning in 1956, the Fair opened Friday evenings and continued until labor day. City water lines were laid during the summer of 1958 assuring plenty of water at the fairgrounds. Prior to that time, the only source of water was from cisterns and water trucks.

Other improvements and new features followed in the 1960s. Beef cattle classes, beauty contests, and special attractions such as greased pig contests, jack rabbit chases, calf scrambles, and special appearences by local celebrities brightened the 1960s Alexandria Fairs. A welcome improvement came in 1965 when sanitary restrooms were added to the Fairgrounds.

Tragedy struck the Fair in 1972 when the grandstand burned. The wooden structure was replaced by an all-concrete grandstand and the circular arena with an oval track. A new dining room and exhibition hall also were built. Although the Fair was ready to welcome patrons in 1973, the rebuilding of the facilities was an unexpected and burdensome debt.

The fair exists today to bring enjoyment to present and future generations and to be the basis for many more pleasant memories for its loyal patrons.

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