Open Monday, June 16 through
Saturday, June 21, 2014
The Woodford County Fair Association, Inc., is a 501 (c) (3) organization
WOODFORD COUNTY FAIR
Kentucky Department of Agriculture 2011 Most Progressive Fair Award Winner,
Zone III, Division A
Woodford County Fair was recognized by the Department of Agriculture as one of the top 6 fairs in the state of Kentucky by being awarded the Most Progressive Fair in Zone III, Division A. The State is divided into three Zones that have three directors that serve on the Board. Our President, Mary Lou Watkins, was a director in Zone III for five years.
Throughout the history of the Woodford County Fair, there is a vivid reflection of hard-working, fun loving, home-loving people. For many years, the fair had the characteristics of “old home week.” Families looked forward to when they would be together with friends and neighbors at the County Fair. The Fair is where the “good times” were – and still are – for the warm, friendly people of Woodford County. And so, begins the history of the Woodford County Fair . . .
On March 24, 1892, a fair association was formed and stock at $100 per share offered in the “The Versailles Fair Association.” The proposal was to capitalize the association at $20,000, purchasing grounds and build a mile kite-shaped track. On April 14, 1892, W. Henry Graddy was elected President, W. Irvine Arnold, Vice President; Dave McDaniel, Secretary; and John L. Amsden, Treasurer. Serving on the Board of Directors were Van B. Nelson, Nat Stone, John Ball, Gus L. Macey, James W. Miller, J. P. Amsden, J. D. Turner, J.P. Brown and Henry Heimiller. Committees were Grounds, Building, and Stock. Sixty acres at the first curve on Big Sink Pike in the “triangle” on the right between the L.S. and R.N.I.B. railroads was purchased for $100 per acre from Hardin Fields and james W. Smith. Each railroad had a station on the grounds. A full mile track, 70 feet wide, with well thrown-up turns was built. M. B. Hifner, surveyor and civil engineer, laid off and engineered the track, which has one-fourth mile in each curve, one-fourth in each stretch, one-half mile up grade and one-half mile down grade. The mile track is faster than any regulation track in Kentucky; it has a track that you can see every foot of all the way round; it has an amphitheater that is commodius and comforable; situated on an elevation that commands a view of the grounds and country for miles around. The grandstand has a seating capacity of 2,500. Today, Big Sink Pike voting district is still referred to as “The Fairgrounds.” Building estimates were –grandstand $2,500, stables $3,000, and $1,500 for the track. By April 14, $9,000 of $15,000 required stock had been sold, and Tobias Gibson and Harry Gilmore were to see whether the association could utilize the charter of the old Woodford Fair Association, indicating a fair association existed earlier. Named “Versailles Fair & Trotting Association,” August 2 through 5 was set for the fair. Because of the opening, the Blue Grass Clipper was published daily on August 2, 3, 4 and 5, and the items included in the regular weekly August 1 edition. It marked the first time that a newspaper was published daily in Midway or Woodford County. The management laid pipes to the grounds and plenty of good water was pumped fresh continuously direct from the famous Big Spring, and by the power of the pumps of the electric light plant an abundance of water for all purposes is conveyed to the Fairgrounds every day. The Association provided 1,000 feet of canvas tenting and there will be an abundance of shade; the Association will give special attention to the comfort of ladies; there will be no liquor or games of chances on the grounds. G. H. Swinney was hired for the dining room; and, there was no liquor or games of chance on the grounds. The first day people began coming in the morning and every train was loaded. When the races began at 2 p.m., the crowd had grown to about 2,500. There are 120 horses in the stables for this first meet at the new Fairgrounds. The next day approximately 3,500 people attended. Versailles banks closed at 1 p.m. during the fair.
Events were harness horse races, mule races, and bicycle races. The first race trotted was the Woodburn Stakes for three-year-olds for a purse of $500. By 1895, the midway had everything from snake charmers to games like “rings and canes,” but the fair was mainly devoted to horses and cattle. By the 1900, 4-H became the answer to the needs of rural boys and girls. In March 1911, the Gray Lodge, Knights of Pythias of Versailles bought the controlling interest in the Woodford County Fair Association and conducted the fair that summer. Cooperative Extension work began May 8, 1914, Club work took place December 1, 1921, and a 4-H camp started in 1907. During World War II, (1941-1945) 4-H Club Day was held at Big Spring Park and the Courthouse, and the fair was cancelled. In 1946, under the direction of C. O. Neel, the Young Farmers Association revived the fair again. The Woodford County Fair Association was incorporated July 19, 1960. The horse show was cancelled in 1977 due to having no location. The Fairs were held at the Woodford County Middle School , Simmons Elementary, and Woodford County High School until the 1980s. In 1980, a horse ring was built where the County Park softball fields are located and an open horse show and 4-H horse show were held. The fair settled in its current location in 1987.
In recent times, motor sports, pageants, and wild carnival rides have become an integral part of the fair. In 1990, the United Professional Horseman’s Association selected the Saddlebred Horse Show as the Best One-Day Horse Show and the Fair was second runner-up for the Most Progressive Fair in Kentucky. The Fair catalog received second place in the “Best Catalog” division in 1991 and “Overall Best Catalog” in 1992. The Woodford County 4-H Horse and Pony Club presented $500 to the Association to begin a concession stand fund in 1994.
The first carnival, Myers International Midway, was contracted in 1996. Miss Woodford County Fair 2002, Emily Sloan, was chosen Miss Kentucky County Fair. In January 2004, Woodford County Fair Association President, George Binder, was elected President of the Kentucky Association of Fairs & Horse Shows for a one-year term. A $95,000 pavilion was built and dedicated August 13, 2004, in honor of Robert Huffman and Kelley Fleck was the first Miss Pre-Teen Woodford County Fair. In 2005, Miss Teen Woodford County Fair, Lindsay Piersawl, was chosen Miss Teen Kentucky County Fair and the Fair was selected “Most Progressive Fair Overall” in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. In 2006, Atta Tom Payton was chosen Kentucky Fair Person of the Year and the fair received an “All Kentucky County Award” and “Most Progressive Fair” in Zone III. Doug Estep won second place in Kentucky Demolition Derby Championship High Point Series. The addition to Huffman Pavilion was constructed in 2006 for $247,566 and dedicated as “Payton Hall” in honor of Atta Tom Payton on September 30, 2006. The motorsports tracks received improvements totaling $19,420 in 2007 and the Fair received an “All Kentucky County Fair Award.” Brittany Wright received a college scholarship from the Kentucky Association of Fairs and Horse Shows. In 2008, the fair received the Department of Agriculture’s “Most Progressive Fair Award” in Division A, Zone III. In January 2009, Mary Lou Watkins was elected for a two-year term as Zone III Director of the Kentucky Association of Fairs & Horse Shows, new bylaws were approved and a Governing Board consisting of the Executive Committee and four directors was implemented. A very wet summer caused cancellations of some Fair events and lowered the attendance somewhat. The Fair Catalog “There’s Magic in the Air at the Woodford County Fair” won the award for “Best Catalog” in the newspaper print division. The Fair also received an “All Kentucky County Award.”
In 2010, the horse shows, Kiwanis Youth Night and some motorsport events were cancelled. Attendance was approximately 17,000 patrons. The Fair, once again, received an "All Kentucky County Award" from the Department of Agriculture.
In January 2011, Mary Lou Watkins was re-elected for a three-year term as Zone III Director of the Kentucky Association of Fairs & Horse Shows. For the first time in the history of the Fair, the 4-H and FFA chose not to be a part of the annual fair and all reference to them had to be deleted from fair publications. The exhibits and livestock shows normally designated for the two organizations were changed to open youth classes. The motorsports continued to attract large numbers of spectators. A lawn mower demolition derby was the new attraction added to motorsport events. Two of the four horse shows were cancelled because of the weather. In January 2012, the 2011 Woodford County Fair was recognized by the Kentucky Department of Agriculture as one of the top 6 fairs in the state of Kentucky by being awarded the "Most Progressive Fair in Zone III, Division A". The state is divided into three zones and each zone has Divisions A and B. Division A is for fairs in counties with a population under 20,000 while Division B is for those with more than 20,000. The award is based on livestock and horse entries along with food crops and youth entries approved for State aid and money spent on entries not approved for State aid. Each of the four categories are compared, both as a number and percent increase or decrease, from the previous year. Also considered are promptness of reports and catalog ratings. A large number of Fair Board members attended the Friday morning Zone III meeting. We came away with ideas for our 2012 new attraction, Kidz Zone, designed for children 36" and under who cannot ride the carnival rides.
And now, we look forward to 2014 .