The Richhill Agricultural, Mechanical, and Manufacturing Association (as it was called in the charter) formed July 6, 1866. There were 280 shares of stock sold to fund the fair. The first Jacksonville Fair (as it was initially named) occurred on October 3rd and 4th of that same year. The fair throughout much of the rest of the 1800s and early 1900s consisted of horse racing as the main event. And there were of course the contests that created the inevitable bragging rights of farmers, homemakers and craftsmen. Entries were taken in a large variety of categories – livestock, linen and clothing, cotton, leather, needlework, farm machinery, grains, produce, arts, furniture, flowers, bread, preserves, and even horse shoes.
Attractions in the early years included an “international circus,” balloon ascensions, fireworks, trapeze and other aerial acts, tight rope walkers, and many different bands. The first mention of rides at the fair was reported in the True Blue newspaper in 1886, stating that two large swings “did a good business.” A noteworthy story of entertainment comes from 1893. Madame and Professor Zeno were performing a balloon ascension at the fair, in which the balloon caught on fire. Madame Zeno was able to escape just in time, as the balloon was caught by the wind and blown into the side of a house about 500 yards away.
Attendance has always been more than anyone would ever expect from such a rural area. In 1879, the Wheeling Daily Inte “You can’t die happy ‘til you’ve been to the Jacktown Fair,” is first found in the Waynesburg Democrat Messenger on August 7, 1931 as “Visit Jacktown and die happy.” Though the wording has changed a few times throughout the years, current fair organizers say the adage holds true as much today as when it was first coined.
As always, the fair offers more than just rides and attractions. As stated in the Waynesburg Messenger, October 1, 1879, “If there was nothing on exhibition except the large crowd of people it would pay to spend thirty-five cents and a half day on the fair grounds. It is worth all it cost, and more too, merely as a grand reunion, and, day of recreation and social employment. We witnessed so much sociability and apparent true enjoyment, that we could not help thinking that such a day might be looked forward to as one of the most pleasant of the season, and that, if properly managed, it might be said of “fair day,” as of Christmas, “though it comes but once a year, it always brings good cheer.”
For more info on the history of the Jacktown Fair, Contact Zack and Kayla Patton at 724-428-4636.
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