The Saratoga County Agricultural Society and Fair dates back to 1841 when the organization was formed under an act of the State Legislature of that year. However, before the Agricultural Society was founded, earlier fairs were held from 1819 to 1825 at the Courthouse and an adjacent lot in Ballston Spa.
Saratoga County shares the honor of the oldest county fair in New York State with Jefferson County.
The organizational meeting of the Society was held on June 24, 1841 at the County Courthouse under the direction of its first president, Howell Gardner of Greenfield. However, a fair was not held that year due to the lateness of the season. The first fair of the new Society was a one-day event held October 4, 1842.
The fair was held in several locations during its early years before permanently settling in its current location in Ballston Spa in 1882. During the 1840s the fair rotated between Ballston and Saratoga Springs before moving to Mechanicville in 1848 for the next ten years, where it was held in the rear of McKinney’s Hotel on the banks of the Hudson River.
During the Civil War years, the fair was held on eleven acres of land on Crescent Street in Saratoga Springs. Part of the grounds were leased for the training of troops, who also maintained a recruiting booth at the fair. The fair then moved to Glen Mitchell off North Broadway near the present Maple Avenue Middle School, where it was held through 1881.
Premiums have been issued for farm and household entries throughout the history of the fair, including the best pair of matched horses; best bull and other livestock; knit socks, sheets, and homespun yarn; as well as home baked and canned goods. In 1876 the Fair included activities related to the nation’s Centennial celebration.
In 1882 Colonel Frank D. Curtis of Charlton was instrumental in permanently relocating the fair to its present location in Ballston Spa. The Grandstand was built in 1896 at a cost of $4,000. In 2019 attendance at the fair exceeded 100,000.
Sarah Welch is a lifelong resident of Saratoga County and has been a member of the Board of Directors of the Saratoga County Agricultural Society since 1994. She was treasurer of the Society from 1999-2015 and is currently a Director and Historian of the Society. Sarah can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org To share your ideas for future articles in this series, please contact Jim Richmond at email@example.com
Photo of The Saratoga County Fairgrounds – Early 20th century, provided.