After operating for 36 years, the Great Allentown Fair had become too great for its own good.
The barns that housed the fairs prize dairy and beef cattle were bursting at the seams. Swine, sheep and poultry pens were crowded. The flowers and the bounty of the harvest competed more for space than for ribbons.
And most significantly to the continued success of the fair, the small grandstand and short race track could not accommodate the growing enthusiasm for harness racing.
The 36-year-old fair had outgrown its location. The grounds north of Liberty Street between 5th and 6th streets, which had been the site of the fair every year after the first exposition in 1852, could no longer handle the fairs attractions or attendance.
The members of the non-profit Lehigh County Agricultural Society which operated the fair knew they had to do something.
A History of the Lehigh County Agricultural Society published in 1902, the year after the semi-centennial of the Allentown Fair was celebrated, recounted the local society's emergence.
A series of meetings held during 1850 and 1851 finally culminated in definitive action on January 24, 1852. A large assembly gathered at the public house of William Leisenring in Egypt, Whitehall Township. There it was resolved to organize an agricultural society for Lehigh County and to fulfill its purpose by operating an annual fair.
Allentown, being at that time already a flourishing town and also the county seat, was selected as the most convenient place for this purpose. East of 4th Street, between Walnut and Union streets, lay a desirable five-acre plot of ground ... considered suitable for such an undertaking.
The highlight of the old fairs, according to historians, was the final day public announcement to award the premiums to exhibitors. Hundreds gathered for this moment when the best from farm, orchard and household was recognized.
The Lehigh County Agricultural Society is the nonprofit owner and operator of The Allentown Fairgrounds and The Great Allentown Fair. The Fair is the fulfillment of the Society's mission as stated in its bylaws..
The object of the Society is and shall remain the improvement and advancement of Agriculture, Horticulture, Livestock, Domestic and Mechanical Arts and the entertainment of its membership and patrons.
The annual operation of The Great Allentown Fair for more than a century and a half is testament to the viability and durability of the Society's mission conceived in 1852. The 21st Century version of the Fair is steeped in the tradition of its rich agricultural roots while highly emphasizing education for the non-agrarian public. Its diverse entertainment offerings attract attendees of all ages and tastes.
The activities that occur on The Allentown Fairgrounds year-round support the mission and perpetuation of the Fair. The trade shows, restaurants and the famous Fairgrounds Farmers Market combine to make the 46-acre fairgrounds located in the city's beautiful west-end a hub for enjoyment, commerce and tourism.
Other than at Fair time, the Lehigh County Agricultural Society generously allows vehicles to pass through its gates and traverse the grounds in order to keep the city's traffic flow unimpeded. With its unencumbered area and major exhibition building, the property is dedicated for emergency and disaster usage. The Fairgrounds has been the site for the organization of city parades, high school band practice and other donated uses to better the community.
Please join the Society in rewarding the achievements of farmers, gardeners and homemakers at the annual Allentown Fair, the multi-faceted educational and entertainment extravaganza that attracts not only over a half-million visitors each year, but thousands of participants in its competitive exhibits.
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