History of the Fair

The Granges of Boone County have been operating the Fair since 1957.

From Past to Present . . .

County Fairs are agricultural expositions first established in this country in 1841 when agricultural groups organized the first fairs in Syracuse, NY and Naper Settlement (Naper­ville), Ill. Food, both its production and enjoyment, has been the centerpiece of fairs since the beginning.

 

These local exhibitions promoted modern farming which included livestock judging; judging of produce, fruits, flowers, grains and dairy products; exhibits of new agricultural implements and techniques and various contests such as plowing which would eventually become tractor pulling competitions. Harness races would become a very popular part of agricultural fairs from about 1875 and on through the mid 1900s. We still feature harness races at the Boone County Fair.

 

The first county fair in Belvidere was held in 1855 in Big Thunder Park. In 1867 the fair was relocated to what is now Spencer Park which happened to be the same year the National Grange was founded.

 

The Grange (or Patrons of Husbandry) is the oldest agricultural organization in the United States being founded in 1867 to help organize the farmers after the Civil War. The Grange today is a family community service organization advocating for agriculture and rural America. There are seven local chapters of the National Grange in Boone County with more than 400 members.

 

Some members of the seven local chapters meet on a County level bi-monthly at what is known as the Boone County Pomona Grange. The Pomona Grange (or County Grange) has its own set of officers and committees. The Pomona Grange took over the operation of the Boone County Fair at what is now Spencer Park and formed the Boone County Fair Association in 1957.

 

After six years of operation the Pomona Grange found itself with a fair that needed new buildings and more land if it were to grow and succeed. With no prospects or money for either in November of 1962 the Pomona Grange members voted to make the 1963 fair their last one. But a month or two later and the Taylor sisters came forward with a reasonable offer to sell the Pomona Grange 84 acres on Route 76 about a mile north of Belvidere. A few Grange members came forward and offered their farms as collateral so the purchase of the land could be made.

Flash forward to 2014 and we have 153 acres with many buildings, barns and arenas making up Boone County Fairgrounds Park owned and operated by the Granges of Boone County. The four executive officers of the Boone County Fair Association (a 501(c)(3) organization) are elected by the members of the Pomona Grange and each of the 7 local chapters selects four members to be on the fair board.

 

So you can see the Boone County Fair has been a big part of the county for a long time. I can't speak for all fairs but at Boone County we are still a good place to do business with vendors of all types of equipment and supplies for agricultural purposes. But even urbanites can do business such as buy a car; buy landscaping services, water softeners, a new hat, or whatever.

 

Plus the fair is one large community fundraiser. Nearly every civic organization has a booth or provides a service at the fair to raise money. The 4-H clubs, The Lions, Cosmos, Boy Scouts, Church groups, County Fire departments, and yes, even the Granges are all here raising money for their various projects for the community.

 

 

But the centerpiece is still the livestock and non-livestock (home arts, fruits, vegetables, flowers, grains). We will have about 3,000 head of livestock, everything from rabbits to draft horses and 6,000 non-livestock entries, everything from quilts to corn to cakes to photos. Our superintendents do an outstanding job promoting participation in their various departments.

 

For the 4-H members it's a chance to show their talents, to learn to carry through on a project, to learn to raise and care for an animal and to show that animal and have the animal and themselves judged for their showmanship abilities.

 

Plus it's a place where people from the city can learn about agriculture. They can see a cow being milked, a chick being hatched, a sheep being sheared, and a team of six draft horses being hitched to a wagon. It's all up close and personal and they can ask the farmer or rancher questions. And the farmer or rancher will be more than happy to answer. It's probably more important than ever that people understand where their food comes from and how it's raised. A place where you can see agriculture in action, firsthand.

 

The Boone County Fair is also a grand social event, a once a year six day community family reunion. Where you can just go and sit and see old friends and make new ones.

 

And of course we like to have some fun too. There is plenty of free entertainment all through the park all day long and some thrill rides and games if that's your thing. Plus some great grandstand shows for a night out with your friends.

 

We've been very fortunate in Boone County to have such a successful county fair.

 

Plus the fairgrounds is a great asset to the community as a venue for almost any event from weddings, to concerts, to flea markets and swap meets, to auctions and a place to store your boat or camper for the winter .

 

The fairgrounds has something going on almost every weekend from April 1 to Nov.

1. This fair exists because of the hard work, the sweat and sacrifice of hundreds upon hundreds of volunteers who strived since 1957 to make the Boone County Fair the best in Illinois.

 

A fair we can all be proud of. The bottom line is you don' t have to be a farmer or rancher to be interested in agriculture or county fairs or to even be a member of The Grange.

 

As long as we all eat food we are. all interested in agriculture. And a good place to eat food is the county fair or a Grange potluck.

 

Citation: The Boone County Far from Rock Valley Publishing. Thursday Aug 6, 2015

. . . Celebrating Our Journey

  • 1855 Boone County Agricultural Society formed to organize the first Boone County Fair. Allen C Fuller was principal organizer,. Area of flat land north of the courthouse was purchased First fair was held October 25th & 26th. Stock was exhibited & admission was free. Domestic articles & manufactured wares were to be exhibited at Union Hall Thursdays attendance was approx. 3000 and Friday was approx. 5000. 50 Horse entries in addition to mares and colts Local talent performed in the evening at Union Hall

 

  • 1863-1865 No fairs were held during the Civil War

  • 1867 Old fairgrounds was sold (by courthouse) for $675. Land purchased at west end of Lincoln Ave for $1200.00 (now Spencer Park) Racetrack and judges stand were built

  • 1877 Fair had 1048 entries

  • 1906 Belvidere Amphitheater Company formed to erect the Amphitheater as fair association felt they couldn't pay to have it built. A group of men paid $1200.00

 

  • 1911 Fair association now owns grandstand

 

  • 1913 Season pass cost $1.25 and covered man and wife--season pass for children 6-12 cost .25

 

  • 1925 New entrance complete-located about 1000 feet east of the former gate 1931 Adams Rodeo added to lineup and replaced harness racing

  • 1945 Fair cancelled in an effort to reduce infantile paralysis epidemic

  • 1957 Granges took over fair operations under the management of Pomona Grange

 

  • 1963 Last fair to be held at old Fairgrounds (Spencer Park) 84 acres purchased on Rt 76 for a third Fairgrounds

  • 1964 First.fair to be held at current location

  • 1965 Cattle barn & grandstand (minus roof) were added 1966 Dairy barn was added

  • 1967 Hog barn was added 1968 Sheep barn was added

  • 1970 Home Economics building was added

  • 1972 Two additional buildings were added

  • 1981 Large horse barn & grandstand roof added

  • 1991 17 additional acres were acquired for a total of 101 acres

  • 1993 52 more acres were acquired for a total of 153 acres 'i

  • 1994 Beaver Valley Grange Hall was moved to the Fairgrounds-it was founded in 1916

  • 1999 Goat barn was added

  • 2005 Swine building was extended and many new cement sidewalks were added

 

  • 2013 50th Anniversary at Route 76 location!

© 2020 by Boone County Fair Association

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8847 IL-76, Belvidere IL 61008   815-544-2900, bcfa2001@aol.com

Owned and operated by the Granges of Boone County, Illinois