On April 2, 2021, Erie County celebrated its bicentennial anniversary, kicking off a year of celebration. This significant milestone is an opportunity for the community to reflect on the history, stories, and legacies of the many men and women who came before us.
The Erie County Fair is something most of us look forward to every year. The fair is our chance to come together and experience everything that our county offers. Not only can you see what local farms have to offer, as well as their livestock, but you can get a lot of unique items from various local vendors. Then there’s the variety of food. No visit to the fair is complete without the food. There’s a wide variety of food vendors that cater to every taste imaginable. Its one of the many ways that we celebrate summer here in Erie County.
The first fair was held in 1820 on the site of the Donovan Office Building downtown under the auspices of the Niagara County Horticultural Society. In 1821, when Erie County split from Niagara County, the Erie County Agricultural Society was formed and took control of managing and operating the fair. The fair was held in 1821. After that it would be 20 years before another fair would be held. This was due, in no small part, to the fact that the area was still under developed, meaning that because there was a lack of viable roads in the area, it was extremely difficult to get livestock to the fairgrounds in Buffalo.
As the area developed more, thanks to its location on Lake Erie and the opening of the Erie Canal, Buffalo became a hub for goods from the Midwest on their way to the Eastern United States. By 1841, the fair was once again held downtown in Lafayette Square on the grounds of the Erie County Court House. From 1851-1867, the fair became more transient, moving throughout the county, including Aurora, Lancaster, East Hamburg (Orchard Park), West Seneca and Springville. Finally in 1868, the Erie County Agricultural Society found its new, permanent home for the Erie County Fair on 12 acres of land in Hamburg. This would grow to 275 acres as the fair grew. The fair was originally held on just a single day but as the fair become more popular, the event would eventually take place over the course of 12 days in August.
The oldest building that is still intact is the Octagon Building, erected in 1885. Beginning in 1924, the James E. Strates Shows Midway began to set up their services at the fair and to this day still runs the midway, arriving by train every year. Aside from 2020, the only other time in history that the fair was not held was in 1943 because the Second World War was raging. In 1970 the Erie County Fair became the country’s largest county fair with an attendance of 600,960. Since then the fair is now the third largest in the country, with 2019 setting an attendance record of 1,238,456.
The Erie County Fair runs from Wednesday August 11-Sunday, August 22. Tickets must be purchased in advance here and they will not be selling tickets at the gate this year.