Last August we went to the Dutchess County Fair with some friends.

According to the fair’s website:

The Dutchess County Agricultural Society was formed in 1842 on a $157.00 grant from the New York State Legislature. The Society’s purpose was “to continue the development of agriculture, household manufactured items, and domestic produce.”

1842 – The First Official Fair

The first official fair was held in Washington Hollow in 1842. Many followed in that same location which is currently occupied by the barracks of the NYS police. The fair was also held off and on in Poughkeepsie in the area of what is now Mill and Catherine Streets.

By the 1900’s, the fair had suffered considerable financial challenges. This caused the cancellation of the 1916 and 1918 fairs. In 1917, the fairgrounds in Poughkeepsie was used to mobilize people on the home front on behalf of the men involved in the war effort.

In 1919 there was much question as to the future of a fair in Dutchess County. The directorate of the Society was reorganized and a new location was chosen, Springbrook Park in Rhinebeck. The relocation to the present location proved successful and subsequent fairs to this time have remained on the same location.

The Weather, Gas Restrictions, the War

Weather always affects the fair. Both the fairs of 1927 and 1928 were cancelled due to heavy rains and flooding. The Society was once again plunged into heavy debt. The subsequent Depression years continued to negatively influence the growth of the fair. The 1942 fair was cancelled due to the War.

After the 1945 fair, gas restrictions were lifted with the end of the War. The “incredible” receipts from the ’45 and ’46 fairs allowed the Society to repay its debts and make an investment in the future. After nearly 100 years of ups and downs, the Dutchess County Fair was in good shape.

In 2011 the fair was forced to close early due to hurricane Irene and an earthquake.

The Largest Agricultural 6-Day Fair in New York

In 1950, the reincorporated Dutchess County Agricultural Society, Inc. purchased Springbrook Park and renamed it the Dutchess County Fairgrounds. The facility has since grown to 147 acres. Construction on the fairgrounds over the years has been constant and impressive.

Today, the largest agricultural 6-day fair in New York State has a physical plant that is the recognized as one of the most beautiful in the country.

Our friends used to live in Staatsburg, NY not far from where the fair takes place so of our first stop was to take a look at their former house. After that we looked at some antique stores in Rhinebeck, had lunch there and took a quick look at the town. Then finally we went off to the fair.

And if by some chance there are some fellow Brits reading this the use of ‘Dutchess’ rather than ‘Duchess’ is not a mistake. That’s what the county is called. Apparently it’s old usage. The word originated c.1300, from Old French duchesse, from Late Latin or Medieval Latin ducissa, feminine of dux (for duke). It was often spelled ‘dutchess’ until the early 19th century.

Taken with a Sony RX-100 M3.




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