What is a “Fair”?
A fair (archaic: fayre) is a gathering of people to display or trade produce or other goods, to parade or display animals and often to enjoy associated carnival or funfair entertainment. It is normally of the essence of a fair that it is temporary; some last only an afternoon. Activities at fairs vary widely. Fairs are also known by many different names around the world, such as agricultural show, fête, county fair, exhibition or state fair, festival, marketand show. Children's competitions at an American fair range from breeding small animals to robotics, whilst the organization 4-H has become a traditional association
The fair is an ancient tradition and many communities have long had dedicated fairgrounds; others hold them in a variety of public places, including streets and town squares, or even in large private gardens.
American County Fair History
The American County Fair developed in the early nineteenth century when agriculturalreformers in the northeastern United States organized local exhibitions to promote modern farming. Typical events included livestock judging, exhibits of new agricultural implements and techniques, and plowing contests. The Union Agricultural Society (1839), which published the Prairie Farmer from Chicago, drew members from counties throughout Northeastern Illinois and held its first annual fair in Naperville in 1841. Numerous county agricultural societies were organized a decade later and they began holding annual fairs and acquiring land for permanent fairgrounds. Entertainment became important as fairs competed with national expositions during what is considered the golden age of agricultural fairs between 1870 and 1910. Bicycle races, balloon ascensions, and eventually automobile races and airplane demonstrations were common features, while plowing matches and evening lectures were replaced with pyrotechnic displays. Early in the decade of the 1900s, the Illinois Farmers' began sponsoring regional and county chapters of a new national youth movement called 4-H, whose 4-leaf clover insignia with embossed H's signified the emphasis on Head, Heart, Hands, and Health. 4-H chapters encouraged teenagers in local, county, state, and national competitions. County fairs have survived over the years despite the diminishing presence of agricultural exhibits.
Alabama Fairs History
In 1855, the Alabama State Agricultural Society was organized in Montgomery. One of the objectives was to hold a state wide fair. The first state wide fair was held in Montgomery on November 20-24, 1855 and was called Agricultural Fair and Cattle Show. A fairgrounds was chosen just north of the city on the bank of the Alabama River. The fair was held every year for 5 years, but in 1861, the Civil War began and the fair was no longer held. The Dallas County Agricultural Society was organized in 1857 in Selma, however, due to the ongoing Civil War, the Society was unable to continue holding a fair. Peace was realized in 1865 and the people had to rally back from the effects felt during the war. The date of the first general State fair in Alabama after the War is not known but was probably in the late 1860’s and at Montgomery. During the years after the war, various organizations promoted and encouraged fairs throughout the state. One organization, The Alabama State Grange, was organized on November 27, 1873.
The American State Fairs
The American state fair is a conceptual curiosity, a celebration of agriculture that is at once a fantastic departure from the discipline and labor of the farming life. Even at the earliest fairs, agricultural displays and discussions competed for space and attention with horse races, carnivals, and shows. And innovations only widened the gap. The plowing contest became the tractor pull, and the horse race led to auto and motorcycle races and automobile stunt shows. Horse and hog contests blossomed into competitions among every kind of animal and vegetable, with baking and sewing contests right alongside. Like the prizewinning livestock and produce they showcased, state fairs expanded in size and number, becoming a national institution.
The original Ferris Wheel, sometimes also referred to as the Chicago Wheel, was designed and constructed by George Washington Gale Ferris, Jr.. With a height of 80.4 metres (264 ft) it was the largest attraction at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Illinois, where it opened to the public on June 21, 1893.
The first carousel (and amusement ride) at Coney Island, NY was hand-carved and built by Charles I. D. Looff in 1875 and installed at Mrs. Lucy Vanderveer's Bathing Pavilion in 1876
Machine-spun cotton candy was introduced in1897 by William Morrison (shown at left) and John C. Warton. The two Tennessee candy-makers invented the world's first cotton candy machine. In 1904, Morrison and Wharton took their cotton candy, which they called “fairy floss," to the St. Louis World's Fair.