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Ohio State Fairgrounds

Ohio State Fair

The Ohio General Assembly in 1845 created what would later become the Ohio State Fair. However, it would take another 4 years before the fair became a reality and then it was nothing like what we know today. In fact, the fair moved from one geographic location to another throughout the state. The reason for the roaming locations was simple: transportation.

Although the National Road had been built, there were few other roads of any significance in the Ohio in the 1850s. That meant those wishing to travel to the fair had to made extensive plans for the trip that could take several days of difficult travel. Not until railroads made travel easier would the fair see an abundance of visitors.

The first state fair was held in 1850 near Cincinnati. It was a 2 day affair. The following year, the fair came to Franklinton on the farm of Michael Sullivant. Over the next several decades the Ohio State Exposition would be held in various towns throughout Ohio.

Governor Rhodes at the fair in 1976

Governor James A. Rhodes at the 1976 Ohio State Fair

In 1874 Columbus won the bid to host the fair for the next 5 years. So successful was this central location for the State Fair, it was decided that Columbus would become the permanent host for the annual end of summer event. During this time the fair was held at several locations in Franklin County. At one time the fair was held at the Franklin County Agricultural Society on East Broad Street where the Franklin Park Conservatory is now located. It was also held where the Franklin County Fairgrounds are located in Hilliard. In 1886 the fair's location was moved to its current location between 17th and 11th Avenues just east of I-71. Although at that time the interstate was not a consideration, but it was chosen because of its close proximity to nearby railroad lines.

Ohio Fair Main Entrance 1941

1941 Main Entrance to the Fair

Ohio Red BirdIn 1888 the fairgrounds were used for a large encampment for one of the final Civil War reunions held by the Grand Army of the Republic.

Early History at the Fairgrounds

The early fairs focused entirely on agriculture, but in 1896 organizers included entertainment to the fair experience. Like much of the country, in 1896, electricity was first used to light the Ohio State Fair, making it the first fair in the nation with electric lights. In 1903 the first butter cow was introduced and has been a regular feature of the fair. In the 1920s the All-Ohio Boys Band began performing at the fair.

The fair has run continuously over the years except for the war years between 1942 - 1945 when the fairgrounds were used as a supply depot for military equipment.

In 2008, the Ohio State Fair celebrated its 155th opening. The fair has grown tremendously over the years, expanding from a 2-day event in 1850 to 12 days in 2008.

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