Welcome To
An Old Fashioned Fair!

First Street Fair in Hopkinsville. - Oct 1899
Main entrance shows trapeze equipment and banners from Spanish American War.


Adults, 25 cents; on horses, 35 cents; buggies, 40 cents;
carriages, 50 cents; children and servants, 10 cents each.

The Legislature of 1856 granted a charter for the organization of the CHRISTIAN COUNTY AGRICULTURAL AND MECHANICAL ASSOCIATION. The Commissioners, or incorporators were: Isaac Lewis, James S. Jackson, R.T. Torian, James M. Foard, William T. Moore, James H. Lander, Dr. E. R. Cook, Dr. J. C. Whitlock, J.W. Wallace, H.B. Owsley and James Stites. On February 2, 1857, a meeting was held and the following officers elected: Thomas Green, President, Isaac Lewis - Director, J.P. Thomas - Director, James S. Jackson - Director, C.E. Merriweather - Director, Jesse Mc Comb - Director and Rice Dulin - Directors. The Board elected John C. Latham, secretary, and J. S. Phelps, treasurer, and G. B. Long marshal. Grounds were purchased from J.H. Caldwell and Dr. Montgomery just outside of Hopkinsville; buildings were erected and the first fair was held that fall. Prices for admission were: Adults, 25 cents; on horses, 35 cents; buggies, 40 cents; carriages, 50 cents; children and servants, 10 cents each. The fair was a success and three others were held annually until they were stopped by the war.

The grounds were located in the northeastern suburbs beyond Hays' field, and its annual fairs in October were the crowning events of each year. The grounds consisted of a circular amphitheater enclosing a Judges' stand in the center and a floral hall on one side displaying agricultural products below and a department for the handiwork of the ladies on the second floor, build on a level with the promenade in the amphitheater. Seats for thousands were provided between the promenade and the show ring. And everything was shown. The farmers vied with each other in producing crops, showing specimens of every description and live stock of all kinds. There were driving rings, riding rings, boys' riding rings and even ladies' riding rings. In the floral hall there were baby shows and displays of cakes, pies, laces and art work. On the outskirts there was a half mile race-track and the afternoon programs were concluded with races of every kind, fast horses, slow mules, harness races and sometimes foot races. They were free-for-all with no red-tape restrictions. The fairs were all-day affairs. The country people came early and stayed late. They brought their lunches with them, dinners, they were called then, and ate them wherever they cared to spread them. No one thought of leaving until after the races. It was in later years fifty cents to get in the gate, and no one complained of not getting his money's worth. Skin games, tent shows and hawkers were unknown. It was the annual reunion of the county, and it is a pity the fairs passed away. After 15 or 20 years, the fair company went the way of others of its kind and the grounds were sold and platted into town lots.

Some years later another company was formed, grounds were leased from W. J. Withers on West Seventh street, just outside of town, and there was a series of horse shows and races. They were never very popular, in fact, there was increasing prejudice against horse-racing and after a precarious existence this company also went out of business. A good many years later still another fair company was formed and under new conditions was operated with success for a decade or more. Its grounds were located south of town on the Palmyra road.

In 1858 the officers were: Thomas Green, President; John Berry, John T. Edmunds, J. K. Gant, R. G. Henry, G. W. Killebrew and James S. Parish, directors; John C. Latham, secretary; Thomas S. Bryan, treasurer, and John B. Gowan, marshal.

In 1859 the officers were: James S. Phelps, president; James W. Fields, James Wallace, L. W. Withers, Dr. J. C. Whitlock, Charles M. Tandy, and A. D. Rodgers, directors' H. A. Phelps, secretary; John P. Ritter, treasurer, and John W. Breathitt, marshal.

In 1860 the officers were the same as the year before.

This was the last fair held until 1869. It was characterized by some historic features. Vice-President John C. Breckinridge was present and made a speech discussing the exciting issues that were rapidly pushing the country into war. Mr. Breckinridge was then a candidate for President, representing one faction of the Democratic party that had split wide open and made possible the election of Abraham Lincoln.

In the year 1859 another memorable incident was a feature. The family of Thomas and Rebecca Brown was the largest in Christian County. Mr. Brown had died in 1855, but Mrs. Brown followed by ten grown sons, rode around the ring, the sons mounted on white horses. They were Andrew, Absalom, Gravener, John, Augustus, Robert, William, Thomas, Samuel and Milton. The daughters living at that time were Nancy, Sarah and Jane. Two children had died in childhood.

In 1861 the fair grounds were used as barracks by a regiment of Mississippi troops who had a great deal of sickness among them and during the winter, 101 died and were buried near by. In 1887 these bodies were removed to the new cemetery and an imposing monument erected to the then unknown soldiers. Many years afterwards, in the archives of one of the banks, the list of the names was found and made public. Soon after the soldiers left the grounds, the buildings were burned. The origin of the fire was never disclosed.

In June, 1869, the old stockholders were called together to reorganize and elected B.T. Ritter, president. A committee appraised the grounds at $2,600 and new buildings were at once erected at an expense of $8,200. Joseph F. Foard was elected marshal and in its new buildings the fair was held for four days, beginning October 20. A "balloon ascension" was a big drawing card that year.

In the premium list of the fair in 1871, a pamphlet printed in colors contained 38 pages of advertisements of the enterprising merchants of the day. James O. Ellis was secretary and the following appeal for patronage was on the first page:

"The grounds of the Association are beautifully situated within the corporate limits of the city of Hopkinsville, and on the line of the Evansville, Henderson and Nashville Railroad, containing about twenty acres, well laid off for driving and stock yards.

"The pleasure Grounds are disconnected from each of these; beautifully laid off; well set with grass, and shaded with trees and shrubbery.

"The Amphitheater is constructed after the latest style of architecture, combining both strength and beauty, with seats raised one above the other, and capable of seating eight to ten thousand persons. Around the entire seats of the Amphitheater is a capacious promenade, twelve feet wide, from which visitors can have a fine view of the ground and Arena.

"In the center of the Arena is the Pagoda, three stories high, built in the most tasteful and ornamental style.

"Upon the grounds, in a grove of shade trees, is a new, neat and tasteful cottage, with well-furnished rooms for the sole use of the ladies.

"This cottage will be supplied with polite and attentive waiters, whose duty will be to supply the wants of the guests. There will be an amply supply of good water on the grounds for all purposes.

"The Pagoda will be occupied by a magnificent Brass Band, who will enliven the occasion with stirring music.

"The entire buildings are new and securely constructed, and it is the determination of the Directory to spare no trouble or expense to make this, their Seventh Annual Fair, the largest and most successful every held in this section of Kentucky."

The prices of admission showed a material increase over the antebellum days. Each department had special superintendents. In domestic manufactures, R.I. Martin and G.V. Campbell; household articles, J. S. Jesup and J. W. Mc Pherson; fruit, V.W. Crabbe and W. H. Howe. These articles, poultry, sheep, cattle, a pacing race, a pigeon shooting and a baby show made up the program for the first day.

The baby show as a free for all, no entrance fee, both sexes. The price was a toilet set valued at $30.00 and given by Dr. D. M. Foster.

the program for the second day was "products of the soil"; jacks and jennets, horses and mules, concluding with a racking race, and gents' and boys' riding rings for $10 prizes.

The third day was mostly horses, driving rings, trotting races and a slow mule race.

The premium list of the "Christian County Fair Company" of 1891, 20 years later, contained a list of 23 other fairs beginning in August and running for three months with dates arranged to avoid conflicts. The times were changing and strings of horses and herds of cattle made the rounds, the exhibits no longer confined to the county. The president assured the public that no gambling would be allowed on he grounds. It was still before the "skin games" appeared. A floral hall was built and much emphasis was placed on exhibits in that department. Baby shows had been discontinued. They proved to be unpopular features because all the babies could not win


On February 11, 1913, the Pennyroyal Fair, the last one in the county, was organized, thirty stockholders being present. The articles of incorporation were ready by George E. Gary.

A commodious grandstand and other buildings were built on leased grounds just outside of town on the Palmyra road. The first fair was held early in October. Ben S. Winfree was marshal and the directors voted him one share of stock for his efficient services. The fair was such a success that the stock was increased and 110 more shares taken by farmers and business men in the city. With but few changes in the management, fairs were held in 1914 and 1915. The fair grounds grew in interest and box seats were built in front of the grandstand, the grounds were lighted and night shows were held that became great social events. The third year there was an automobile show with much competition. The vehicles were decorated and filled with pretty girls. Racing grew in popularity and regular races under the State racing law were held.

the last fair was held in 1924, the ten year lease on the grounds having expired. One more the buildings were torn down and the grounds platted and sold. Thus ended the succession of fairs. The Agricultural and Mechanical Association from 1859 - 1884; a lapse of two years and then the Christian County Driving Park from 1887 to 1889; the Christian County Fair Association rom 1890 to 1894; another interregnum and last the Pennyroyal Fair from 1913 to 1924.

In the intervening years, there were several 'street fairs' with a group of tent shows spreading their tents for a week in certain streets.

*- A History of Christian County 1930

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