1839: (Oct. 17-18) First Dayton fair held in Swaynie’s wagon yard, East First and Race streets.
1842-44: Fairs held, unsuccessfully, at three acres leased from Daniel Kiser, north of Dayton on site of today’s Kiser school.
1846: (Feb. 28) Ohio General Assembly created Ohio State Board of Agriculture, encouraged formation of county agricultural societies.
1852: Fair held again at Swaynie’s.
1853: Agricultural societies permitted to purchase land, make improvements with county government assistance.
1853: County and state fairs held in the “bottoms” south of Washington Street.
1855: Fair profits used to buy 10 acres of land at present site off South Main Street.
1856: First fair held at present site.
1859: Fair association purchased 12.18 more acres for total of 22.18 acres.
1860-61: Ohio State Fair held at Dayton fairgrounds. (Again in 1867)
1861: County purchased fairgrounds plus 7.72 acres for total of 29.90 acres.
1874: Southern Ohio Fair Association formed, got 15-year lease of fairgrounds. Agricultural Building (the “Roundhouse”) was constructed, racetrack enlarged and 130,000 came to see a horse race.
1946: (August) Tempest in teapot (or beer bottle) when Women’s Christian Temperance Union asked state officials to enforce 1888 law banning liquor sales within two-mile radius of fairgrounds during fair time. Court injunction kept the booze flowing after local vendors claimed a ban could lead to bootlegging.
1947: (March) High school basketball fans threatened to storm fairgrounds Coliseum after 3,000 could not get tickets for a tournament game. Order was restored. Kiser and Roosevelt high schools also played home games there; NCR leased the structure for AAU games. With a capacity of 3,500, it was nicknamed “the sardine can.”
1951: Goldie V. Scheible becxame agricultural society secretary, beginning 21-years of fairs that operated at a profit and saw completion of $1 million in capital improvements. At retirement in 1971 she was the only woman in the national Fair Hall of Fame.
1961: (October) County Commissioner H.J. Kiefaber demanded that county sell the fairgrounds property, called the fair “a honky tonk” and said it should be removed to a more rural site.
1962: County commission election race included an unsuccessful candidate’s proposal to sell the fairgrounds, use the money for a multi-purpose, 400-acre park/recreation area to be named Fairpark. Didn’t happen.
1966: Radio executive H.K. Crowl and attorney Peirce Wood propose $6 million sports-civic center on fairgrounds property, seek unsuccessfully to gain control of Agricultural Society by “packing” it with $2-a-head members. They got 918 but the “status-quo” group got 1,251. Crowl also filed a taxpayer’s suit challenging legality of direct election of fair board members under an 1890 law.
1985 (Nov. 22): Fire destroyed three buildings housing boats, recreational vehicles and antique cars in storage. Damage estimate: $700,000.
2001: X-Fest, an annual music festival, moves to the fairgrounds after being held at the University of Dayton Arena in previous years. The event was cancelled in 2012.
2009: After 38 consecutive years the Old Time Newsies motorcycle racing event ends. Three years later motorcycle racing returns with the Gem City Flat Track race.
2015: The first Dayton Horse Show began in 1867. Organizers say it was not held for several years during World War II but this year commemorated over 140 years of the popular equestrian event.
XXXXXX is a weekly pictorial history feature showcasing the Miami Valley’s rich heritage. If you have a unique set of historic photos found in your parents’ or grandparents’ attic that depict the past in the Miami Valley contact Lisa Powell at 937-225-2229 or at Lisa.Powell@coxinc.com
Photos are from the NCR Archive at Dayton History, the William Preston Mayfield/Marvin Christian Collection and Dayton Daily News archives. These photos and more can be viewed at www.daytonhistory.org. Use the photo archive button on the site.
Carnival rides and cotton candy begin spinning today as the 2015 Montgomery County Fair returns to the site where it all began in 1856. But this could be the last year that the fair is held at the Montgomery County Fairgrounds.
The proposed Midtown District project would transform the historic, 38-acre site just south of downtown Dayton into a mix of residential, commercial and office properties similar to The Greene Town Center in Beavercreek. The fairgrounds would move from Main Street to a nearly 70-acre site on West Campus Boulevard in Brookville. Only the historic Roundhouse building would be saved and moved to the new location — other buildings on the fairgrounds would likely be demolished.
While the Montgomery County Fairgrounds has been an endearing part of Dayton’s history for many generations, the idea of commercial redevelopment is not a new one, as illustrated in this excerpt from former Dayton Daily News reporter Benjamin Kline on March 15, 1999:
A race horse named Goldsmith Maid in 1874, the aviators Wilbur and Orville Wright in 1909, and President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1968 attracted the biggest crowds ever.
But the Montgomery County Fairgrounds, less than a mile from downtown at 1043 S. Main St., stands out in the community’s memory more for the individual moments, the personal history that mattered very much for a short time, then vanished into scrapbooks, wall plaques and feelings as sweet and sticky as pink cotton candy on a late summer’s day.
The fairgrounds is where your high school basketball team won a big game in the Coliseum, where your steer or pig won a blue ribbon, where you first held hands with the girl you later married, even as both of you got sick and threw up on the Tilt-a-Whirl ride. It may also be where you bought your first new furniture from the charming A.B. Hallum, whose spartan store used to occupy the Roundhouse during nonfair months, or your Christmas tree from Joe’s Pines, a seasonal tenant.
In its 142 years, the 37.8-acre property has been more than just the annual fair first held there in 1856. It also has been a perennial lure to politicians and speculators who would rather `develop’ land than use it to show livestock or stage tractor pulls. As the county’s agricultural base shrinks, the fairgrounds faces changing demographics and increased competition for the money people spend on entertainment.
Once again, county commissioners are considering the possibility of selling the fairgrounds and moving the fair to a more rural site in the western part of the county — where people still know how milk comes from a cow.
The proposed Midtown District would be a $125 million two-phase redevelopment. The overall layout would include 20 acres for commercial space for a grocery store, hotel, office, restaurants and entertainment venues and 17 acres for market-rate apartments and condominiums.
Though these new plans are contingent on securing financing for the project, the developer, Miller-Valentine Group, and the Montgomery County Agricultural Society are running a joint campaign to raise the remaining $3 million that is short of the $18.5 million needed to make the move.
Brookville city officials are also optimistic the fairgrounds move will happen. Last month Rod Stephan, law director for Brookville, told the Dayton Daily News, “It’s looking more promising that more likely the project is going to happen here in Brookville, but it’s not 100 percent certain at this moment.
“Right now, we’re still waiting for (the agricultural society) to make a final submission to us for the planned development process,” he said. “They have a deadline of April 1, 2016, to have the project under construction.”