The Hartford Fair was organized in the fall of 1858 under the name “The Hartford Fair Society”. The first fair was held in 1858 on land leased by Taber Sharp. The only townships represented at that time were Hartford and Monroe in Licking County and Hilliar in Knox County and Trenton in Delaware County. By 1871 there were ten townships represented, with the annexation of Milford Township in Knox Co; Harlem & Berkshire townships in Delaware; and Liberty, Bennington and Burlington townships in Licking County. St. Albans and Jersey were added from Licking County in 1908 as well as Miller in Knox Co. and Porter from Delaware Co.
This made a total of fourteen townships represented with a director elected from each with the exception of Hartford Twp. which had two directors. This fifteen-member fair board continued until 1970 when five directors were added At-Large from the remaining townships in Licking County, not already represented, making the total number of directors twenty. Ten years later, in 1980, two more At-Large directors were appointed along with one more each from Hartford and Monroe Townships. The list of directors totaled twenty-four. In 2012, three additional directors were added to the Board making the total 27″.
Agriculture has been stressed through the years along with the promotion of 4-H and youth activities. The Licking County Junior Fair was added to the program in 1938. From that time the majority of the growth of this fair has been with youth organizations and centered around their activities. We are proud of having one of the largest Junior Fair programs in the State. The 4-H Clubs are increasing to include the urban as well as the farm youth. In 1948 Licking County had the first 4-H Band. It was organized by Lenora McLeish and is housed on the grounds the entire week performing at various events each day.
Agricultural products were intended to please the older generation. Farm machinery displays have been a large part of the fair. The local machinery dealers are still displaying their equipment to showcase new technology.
Shade trees have been one of the trademarks of our fairgrounds. Back in 1895 there are records where the board had planted an abundance of trees. Of course, the shade was needed when the only transportation was the horse and buggy. The board has done an excellent job of keeping the trees replaced when they are damaged or die.
These times were difficult and money was scarce when the fair was being organized. The Civil War took place during these early years. There were no buildings erected until 1868. The top priority seemed to be for an “eating house”! They served meals for 25¢. In 1883 the first amphitheater was built. The specifications state that it was to seat five hundred people. The builder was given the use and profit of the amphitheater for five years instead of paying him to erect the structure. The next building was a sheep barn built in 1901. The buildings have come and gone over the years and now the grounds have over 40 buildings. The land that displays the annual event has grown from the original 25 acres to 183 acres.