County Fairs Were Big Attractions
c. 1950 Chapter 5 p 160-161
Another thing which stimulated trade was the Summit County
Fair, held each autumn after farmers had harvested their crops and
had money in their pockets. The fairs were not held in Akron by
accident—they were brought here through the efforts of the Summit
County Agricultural Society, an aggregation of loyal Akron boosters
friends in nearby townships.
The society was
organized November 14, 1849, at a meeting in the
courthouse. A week later the first
officers were elected: Col. Simon
Perkins, president; Henry G.
Weaver, vice-president; William H.
Dewey, treasurer, and 'William A.
Hanford, secretary. Five managers
also were elected: John Hoy,
Sylvester H. Thompson, Avery Spicer,
Philo C. Stone and James W. Weld.
At this meeting the
county commissioners loosened up the county's
purse strings and promised to donate $137.50 each year for the fair's support. They also gave the
society permission to hold the first fairs on the courthouse grounds.
During the following year the officials and managers worked
to arouse interest throughout the county and raised money
through sales of $1 memberships to assure an alluring list of prizes,
ranging from 50 cents to as high as $8 for the best cattle and
horses. Altogether the prizes
At last the big days came—Wednesday and Thursday, October 2
and 3, 1850, and into Akron from every township streamed farmers
and villagers, eager to take in the big event. The finest domestic
animals raised in the county were exhibited in tents on the grounds,
and in the courthouse itself were exhibited fruits, flowers, domestic
fancy work and even a straw bonnet made from county-grown
In the bovine and equine display were a team of 34 yoke of oxen
of 15 span of horses, both from Tallmadge.
The most popular feature of the fair was a series of plowing contests
held on the commons just east of the jail. (This was before the
cut was made
through that section of town for the branch railroad to Hudson). Both oxen
and horses were entered in the matches and, in
addition to the plowing, the strength of the animals was put to test
in pulling loaded wagons,
stoneboats and stumps. Betting was spirited and large sums of money changed hands.
Such a huge crowd attended the second fair, held October 16 and
that the need for larger grounds was plainly shown. Colonel
Perkins then granted the society free use of a six-acre tract on S.
Main opposite the present B. F.
Goodrich office building. The grounds could not be improved in time for the
1852 fair, however, and it, too, was
held on the courthouse grounds.
During the following summer the South Akron tract was fenced
a large exhibit building was erected, the improvements altogether
costing $1,800. The fair of 1853 was held there with great success.
Three years later a half-mile race track was laid out and the first
races were run on October 8, 9, and 10, 1856.
By that time the Summit County Fair had become the leading
fair in northern Ohio. It was not only the great harvest festival for
County people but was also an attraction which brought in
thousands of visitors from
adjoining counties and even from remote
sections of the state.
Said Editor Ashel
Lewis of the Summit County Beacon in 1858:
-Beyond a doubt the county fair is
of inestimable value to Akron. It
is a magnet which pulls in at least $200,000 of outside money each
autumn. Without this extra
business we fear that some of our merchants
would be sorely troubled in these trying times."
During the fair week every hotel and rooming house in town was
capacity and many private homes took in guests. Livery stables
did a rushing business and stores were crowded. Almost all the
visitors had money to spend, and
when they spent it, the whole town benefited.
Crowds had become so large by 1858 that
the need for larger
grounds became imperative. Perkins offered
to sell most of the land
where the Goodrich factories now stand for
$80 an acre. But the fair
officials dilly-dallied and by the time they were ready to make a decision
Perkins had sold the land to other parties.
David L. King, son of Judge Leicester King, then came to the
rescue and leased to the society for five years a splendid 35-acre tract
on the hill
between Ash Street and Glendale Avenue, just west of the
business district. Covered with large trees, the tract was one of the
most beautiful in this locality.
Buildings and fences were moved there from the old grounds and $3,128 was spent on new improvements,
more exhibit halls and a fine race track. To help make the grounds
the best in the state, business men liberally donated labor and
At this fair
grounds, called Summit Grove, Akron had some of the
finest fairs of its entire history.