Greene County Fair (August 3-9, 2014), Waynesburg, Pennsylvania

Greene County Fairgrounds, 107 Fairgrounds Road, Waynesburg, PA 15370
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HISTORY of the GREENE COUNTY FAIR
"Historians have called it a Street Carnival . . . the men who first set it up called it an Agricultural Fair"

Click here for copy of fair booklet (1 MB size) (Printing compliments of Rhodes & Hammers Printing, Inc.)


OVERVIEW:
The Greene County Fairgrounds is one of two county-owned fairs in the State of Pennsylvania; most others are owned by shareholders. The present site is located on Roy Furman Highway (between Route 21 and Route 188) in Waynesburg, Pennsylvania. There are three (3) entrances to the fairgrounds; one off of Route 188 (Jefferson Road), and two off of Route 21 (one on the eastern side of the grounds & one on the western side). The initial fairground site was originally located on the east end of Morgan Street, near the Crawford Bridge over Ten-Mile Creek on what is now the Waynesburg University Football Field in Waynesburg.

The initial fair was held about 1867 in Waynesburg and was sponsored by the Waynesburg Central Fair Association. It took place on the fairgrounds, which was then located on the south side of Waynesburg, east of Morgan Street (in the area where the current Waynesburg Universtiy Football Stadium).

In addition to the usual livestock, home and garden exhibits and horse racing, there were other attractions, including gambling. Newspapers of the day decried (openly condemned) such activities as the "Shooting-Gallery Man", the "Wheel-of-Fortune Man" and the "Almond Shell".

In 1887, the featured performer at the fair was "Professor Oscar Hunt, the Daring Aeronaut," an acrobat who performed stunts while attached to the rising hot-air balloon.

For several years in the early 1890's, no fair was held in Waynesburg. The Waynesburg Central Fair Association was forced to dissolve and all the property was sold to pay for damages in a law suit filed by Mary Elizabeth Wiley, who had lost an eye in a shooting-gallery accident. On August 12, 1893, E.M. Sayers bought all the properties at a sheriff's sale for $6,200.

By the mid-1890's, a new organization took over the fair, which was becoming quite popular and somewhat decadent, even allowing the illegal sale of beer and whiskey!

In 1901, the fairgrounds had been sold and divided into building lots, and no fairs where held in Waynesburg from 1902-1910. It was during this time that the Carmichaels Fair was advertised as the "Greene County Fair."

By 1911, the new Waynesburg Fair and Agricultural Association had formed and purchased the 60-acre farm of R.S. Sayers located 1/2 miles east of Waynesburg. The first fair was held there on October 3-6, 1911.

In 1912, the mammoth Grandstand, which seated 2,500 people, along with the Race Track were built with the help of mules and wagons.

Also, that same year, Greene Countians saw their first Air Show, featuring "Birdman" Joe Stevenson, flying an 8-cyclinder, 80-horse-powered plan. His first flight delighted the crow, but bad weather on the following day casued him to crash during takeoff. He was thrown from the plan and badly bruised, but survived the crash.

The fair of 1920 featured an orchestra, acrobats, a baby-bathing and feeding demostration by the American Red Cross, and passenger airplane flights.

In 1926, automobile races were included in the slate of fair events. In 1931, you could ride the ferris-wheel for five cents. The first show ring was built in 1936.

When in 1940, the Fair Association found itself $12,500 in debt, the County Commissioners purchased the 41-acre fairground for the exact amount of $12,500. They sponsored only one fair in 1941, until after the war.

After the war ended in the 1945's, the wooden bleachers were condemned and torn down.

The next fair was held in September 1946, and the grounds featured two new cattle barns. Since then, a new addition has been made to the cattle barn; two new pole buildings have been added and the grounds have been restructured to be multi-purposed. These two photos (courtesy of the Greene County Messenger) were taken in 1964, visual reflections of the Greene County Fair.

Other buildings include a Grange Hall, an Exhibition Hall, a two-story Community Building, an Electric Building and an office for the Fair Secretary. The softball field was built in the late 1940's, early 1950's.

The office on the fairgrounds was originally the blacksmith shop. In the late 1940's, it was renovated into a residential house for a grounds caretaker. The first family to reside in the house was a Hewitt family, then Walter Smith with his family in the 1960's. William Oliver Whoolery and Rebecca Marie Whoolery lived in the fairground house during the 70's and 80's and were the caretakers for the Greene County Fairgrounds. Mr. Whoolery managed the fairgrounds; taking care of the buildings, racetrack, ball fields, etc. While Mrs. Whoolery took care of the paperwork; collecting the stall rents, scheduling events, etc. This was a 7 days a week, 24 hours a day job. They have both passed on now but they loved working and living at the fairgrounds for many years. Since then, it has been used as the office for the fairgrounds.

The Greene (Race) Barn, which houses harness horses, and has fifty-eight (58) stalls was built in 1971 at the cost of thirty-five thousand dollars ($35,000) financed by the county. An additional fourteen (14) outside stalls were attached to the west side of the barn in 1993. The barn that originally stood on this site burned down several years before.

In 1974, an Agriculture Building with an indoor arena measuring 100 feet by 190 feet, and a grandstand with the seating capacity of 500 was built to replace several other small barns on the same location. These smaller barns were housed by cattle, sheep and pigs. The funding for this barn was financed from revenue sharing.

In 1975, the 4-H Barn was built and has one-hundred-four (104) stalls. Prior to 1975, there was a wooden barn with approximately fifty (50) stalls on this site that was torn down in order to build a larger barn. The funding for this barn was financed through revenue sharing. In 1978, there were so many horses stabled there, that in order to rent a stall, your name was placed on a waiting list and notified when an opening occurred.

The present grandstand, with the seating capacity of 1,800, was erected at two separate times with the first half, next to the Agriculture Building, being built in 1987. The second half of the grandstand and the roof were constructed in 1990 by the Dant Corporation. The funding to build the grandstand came from a bond issue and the Fair Board donated twenty-two thousand dollars ($22,000) to complete the job.

The current fair is organized by the Fair Board and is always held the first full week in August. Other annual events held at the fairgrounds include the Horsemen's Association Charity Horse Show held Memorial Day Weekend; an Auto Extravaganza; Mother's Day weekend, Eastern Greene 4-H Horse Event; the Black Diamond Cluster Dog Show held the 3rd weekend in June; the Lions Club's 4th of July celebration; bi-weekly flea market; and several other smaller events throughout the year.

There are six (6) barns that were equipped to stable approximately two-hundred-forty (240) horses. Two of these barns (the L-Barn and Sonny Barn) were originals. The Orndorff Barn, formerly known as the Draft Horse Barn, was originally an all wood structure that was renovated sometime in the late 1940's - early 1950's, and then again in the late 1970's-early 1980's to its present state.

The second show arena in the infield was built in 1986-1987. The ball field was relocated to its present location since it was where the horse rings are now. The original show rings were in front of the grandstands and when anyone would have an event they would have to tear out the ends of the rings to do any shows. So people decided that to move the ring and add an additional ring to its present location would be the only solution for having multiple usage as doing an event in front of the grandstand and doing something in the horse rings and even having a ball game or soccor game and even using the buildings a multi-purpose facility.

A Race Trailer, purchased by the Fair Board and the County, was installed around 1990-1992 to replace a small wooden building.

In 1994, two pole barns were built for the purpose of housing rabbits and goats during the Greene County Fair week. The cost to construct these pole barns was partically funded through grant money to the Fair Board, with the county contributing the remaining costs. The construction of these barns was done by employees of the fairgrounds.

On April 23, 1996 a severe windstorm hit the fairgrounds causing major damage; completely destroying the L-Barn and rendered the Sonny Barn inhabitable. The Blacksmith Shop was partially destroyed, 87 trees were lost, the house was slightly twisted and minor damage was sustained to other buildings within the grounds. There were no injuries to either humans or animals present on the grounds during the storm, which lasted approximately three (3) minutes. The debris from the two barns destroyed, was burned by the Waynesburg Volunteer Fire Department on June 28, 1996. The Blacksmith Shop was refurbished the summer of 1996.

In November 1996, the office was moved to Building #6 (the former Blacksmith Shop) and a security guard was moved into the house (the building that is now known as the Blacksmith aka Building #6).

On August 11, 2009, the Greene County Commissioners dedicated a newly constructed building at the Greene County Fairgrounds in honor of John Gapen, a former Greene County extension agent for Penn State Cooperative Extension. Earlier in 2009, the county completed construction on the 4,000-square foot pre-stressed fabric building, located on the eastern end of the fairgrounds. The new building will house the county’s emergency response vehicles and trailers, emergency lighting equipment and other supplies to be used in the event of an emergency or disaster. A Red Cross trailer will also be housed in the building, which was paid for with a combination of funds from the Greene County 911/Hazmat fund, the Greene County Fair Board and the county. Click here for news release about the new Gapen Building. (Click on image to enlarge photo).

The Greene County Fair has been held in Waynesburg every year since, without interruption. The fair continues to have harness racing and strive to keep agriculture a major part of the fair events.
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