File photo by Brian Hagberg

Pieces of the Past: The Fair

August 9, 2023

Walking along the midway at Warren County Fair it’s impossible to think that the fair came and went not once but several times. Google the fair’s history and at least two sources point to 1850 as the year the fair began, I’m not sure exactly where but the first one was a single-day event held in Sugar Grove.

Attempts to organize a strong fair committee failed over several decades. The Civil War, The First World War all played havoc with it. One of the most successful fairs that lasted well over a decade was located up Conewango Avenue in what today would be called the Hatch Patch. The fair suffered from a lack of support in Warren. Youngsville High hosted a limited fair that began attracting agricultural interest from 4-H.

Youngsville Fair grew from the school to Island Park. About 1966 the fair board was made up of men and women who had a goal of expansion not just preservation. PennDot forced them to abandon the park and seek a new home. The group acquired 100 acres of farmland located just off Route 6 on Barton Run Road. Aggressive leadership and dozens of volunteers took the Youngsville Fair and turned it into a countywide event. The fair assumed the name Warren County Fair. The focus went from community event to the real deal. They set out to earn the name Warren COUNTY Fair!

In 1968 the first permanent commercial building was erected. That year was a first for publicity. Scott Chandler of WRRN and I produced the first live broadcast from the fair. Broadcasting from the fair became an annual event on WRRN after that. One year Roy Schneck did a live report from a hot air balloon using a handheld radio that we patched through.

For 25 years the fair board worked with Max Bennink of Columbus to bring talent to Warren. Some of the biggest names in Country music performed in the Cornplanter Pavilion. I’ll never forget one special Saturday show. Now and then Max would make a deal with talent managers to bring in one well-known star for the Tuesday night show and a second up-and-comer for a Saturday night gig.

That year Max really hit it out of the park. The up-and-comer had the No. 1 song on the charts at the time. It was GARTH BROOKS! Warren County was the last small venue Brooks ever played.

I was lucky to have been active at the fair for nearly 50 years. My wife was secretary of entries for 23 of them. We camped on the knoll behind the Cornplanter. It allowed men to interview or just rub elbows with famous people. One time a yellow Ford pulled up in front of the Cornplanter and two men who looked like they just got off the golf course approached me. “Hey, where’s a good place to get a sandwich?” one of them said. I walked them over to the Shriners’ booth. The man asked me which one I liked. When I told him, he ordered 2 and gave me one of them. Long after we parted company I realized it was Grandpa Jones from the TV show HeeHaw.

Dale Bliss, now with the Hound has assumed the role of fair board chairman. He has assembled a long list of locals to continue a tradition of being the BETTER-EVERY-YEAR-FAIR. At the annual Pennsylvania State Fair convention the Warren County Fair was voted the number one small market fair in the Commonwealth… Through all the decades it has remained a true agricultural fair.

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