History of the Big Butler Fair
The first Butler Fair was held in 1856 on a plot of land east of the city near Kearns Crossing. The next year the Fair moved to a site near the present location of the Pullman-Standard plant. Joseph Douthett was the first president of the association and under his direction the Fair prospered until its activities were curtailed by the Civil War.
In 1856 the Butler Agricultural and Stock Association was formed with Judge James Braden as president. Eleven years later the Butler Driving and Fair Association replaced the first group with G. J. Cross as president. A tract of some 33 acres was leased and a half-mile race track was developed, along what is now Hansen Avenue. Following the traditional pattern of country fairs, this association presented outstanding exhibitions of livestock and farm products, as well as harness racing featuring well-known drivers and locally owned horses.
In 1888 additional acreage was acquired and under the name of the Butler Agricultural Association the Fair was an important annual event for 14 years until 1902. In that year the Standard Steel Car Co. purchased the Fair property and erected a plant for the fabrication of steel railroad cars. Thus, after a period of 45 years, the Butler Fair moved from their established location.
The following year the Big Butler Fair continued its activities on a 60-acre tract situated at the top of the hill west of the city. George A. Shaffner directed the development of the new Fair Grounds, complete with cattle sheds, midway, race track and grandstand. By this time Fair Week in Butler County had become the most colorful annual event in the district. The local merchants in the City of Butler closed their stores at least one day during the week and it was a time of summer holiday and home-coming. For the rural areas of the county, the Fair meant basket picnics and family reunions and for the youngsters of both town and country it was an unforgettable week of carnival time.
When World War I broke over the nation the policies of the Fair Association changed with the influences that changed the established way of life in America. Automobiles, radio, paved roads and mechanization of farming brought new and different exhibitions and attractions to the Fair Grounds. In 1928 Mr. R. J. Ferguson became the president of the Fair, and under his leadership the dim and discouraging years of the depression were weathered by the Association. World War II continued the difficulties, but on August 15, 1945, the Butler Fair had its most exciting day and a hysterical crow celebrated the victorious Cease Fire of V-J Day.
Following this changeable and uncertain era in the life of the Fair, the Association became a nonprofit organization, with Mr. A. J. Richards, a son-in-law of Mr. Ferguson, as president. By this time, however, the expansion of the Butler area had caught up with the Fair and in 1956 the Fair Grounds on Route 422 was selected by school authorities as the site for a new ultra-modern high school. After considerable confusion and much discouragement, the Butler Fair was reestablished in a new setting on Route 422, eight miles west of butler, adjacent to the Borough of Prospect.
Roads were laid out, graded and paved. Buildings were moved from the old location. New, permanent buildings were erected. A new race track was constructed, and so a new Butler Fair Grounds came into existence.
The Big Butler Fair continues in the old tradition and is the high point in the summer activities of the people of Western Pennsylvania. Approximately 4,000 exhibitors will attend the Fair with various projects.