2016 will mark my 29th Fairfield County Fair. I love the fair. Lancaster and Fairfield County are near and dear to my heart but the Fairfield County Fair is something. I’ve never been to another county fair so I guess I’m biased but the Fairfield County Fair is the last and the best fair in Ohio. I have heard people say it is better than the Ohio State Fair which I would honestly believe.
I love the fair not just for the food and the shows but because I get to see people who I do not see very often. I get to see the pride people take in their hard work over the last year in raising animals, preparing for livestock shows and even growing the county’s tallest sunflower. It is a week long celebration of the heritage and pride we all hold for Fairfield County and Lancaster.
I have seen many county fairgrounds before but never have a I seen a grounds that takes pride in preserving our history. The Fairfield County Fairgrounds is lined with historical buildings that once stood proud in various towns and villages throughout the county and then were moved to the fairgrounds to ensure that time will not forget them. There is the Mt. Zion United Brethren Church, the train station, general store, the round cattle barn, and of course the Rolley School House Covered Bridge that was lost in the Spring of 2016.
The Fairgounds is not just a staple of Lancaster and Fairfield County history though. It has roots in United States history as well. In the 1860’s during the Civil War, the Fairfield County Fairgrounds were temporarily renamed Camp Anderson and tents and training areas were setup for soldiers.
In 2009, the Fairfield County Agricultural Society and the Fairfield County Commissioners made a decision to demolish a piece of history – the ladies’ grandstand. The ladies’ grandstand was a three story tall structure that originally stood next to the gentlemen’s grandstand on the south side of the horse track. It was built in 1908 and remained in it’s location until sometime in the 1920’s. In the 1920’s, it was moved to it’s current location on the northeast side of the track.
The grandstand was badly damaged by a wind storm in 2009 and was not structurally safe. Honestly, I do not remember a time when it was safe to occupy except when I was small I remember sitting up there with mom and Nana one year during the fair. Anyway, when the grandstand was slated for demolition in 2009, a group of preservationists got together and were able to raise $100,000 to preserve the structure and make some repairs so that it would not be demolished. The group persevered and the ladies’ grandstand stood for another seven years.
In the early fall of 2016 – September 24 to be exact – a fire was reported at the fairgrounds in the very early hours of that Saturday. When the Lancaster Fire Department arrived, the ladies’ grandstand was fully engulfed in flames. The structure was a total loss and so far the fire seems suspicious.
A piece of Fairfield County’s history; lost forever because of a senseless act.
With the 2016 fair only a couple of weeks away, I imagine that there will be a sense of sadness hanging in the atmosphere this year. For many of us, it feels as if we have lost a dear, old friend. For me, it’ll be sad to walk the outer rim of the fairgrounds and not pass by the ladies’ grandstand and be reminded of an earlier time.