Today, the Dutchess County Fair is the largest six day fair in New York State and is recognized as one of the most beautiful in the country. But did you know that the first official fair was held in Washington Hollow in 1842. Many followed in that same location. The fair was also held off and on in Poughkeepsie in the area of what is now Mill and Catherine Streets. But 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 and 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.
The Largest Six-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 142 acre facility has since grown to nearly 170 acres. Construction on the fairgrounds over the years has been constant and impressive and continues to be the largest six day fair in New York State.