2019 State and County Fairs stamps
US #5401-04 was issued in 2019 to honor state and county fairs.

On September 29, 1841, New York held the first state fair in the US.  Today, it’s the oldest and one of the most highly attended of all US state fairs.

The Great New York State Fair began with the establishment of the New York State Agricultural Society in February 1832.  The group was made up of farmers, legislators, and others who wanted to advocate for agriculture and local fairs.  After years of planning, the first New York State Fair was held in Syracuse from September 29-30, 1841.  Between 10,000 and 15,000 people visited the fair during these dates and witnessed events such as speeches, animal exhibits, plowing contests, and samples of farm and home goods.

2019 State and County Fairs mint sheet
US #5401-04 – State and County Fairs mint sheet

After the first New York State Fair, the location of the event changed several times over the next few decades.  Finally, in September 1890, the Syracuse Land Company gave 100 acres to the Agricultural Society for a permanent fairground.  Management of the fair was turned over to New York State in 1899, and permanent buildings were constructed not long after.

2019 State and County Fairs Fleetwood First Day Covers with Digital Color Postmark
US #5401-04 – Set of Fleetwood First Day Covers with Digital Color Postmark

During World War I, the fairgrounds became Camp Syracuse, serving as a training station for 40,000 soldiers.  In 1938, the fair was renamed the New York State Agricultural and Industrial Exposition and it was expanded to 14 days and included entertainment acts.  The fairgrounds served as a military base during World War II and installed the Mighty Wurlitzer Theatre Pipe Organ in 1967.  In 2010, the fair hosted the first outdoor game in American Hockey League history, also setting a league attendance record of more than 21,500 fans.

2000 34c Flag Over Farm, non-denominated stamp
US #3448 – Most fairs center around local agriculture.

Today, the fair’s attractions include the Chevy Court concert theater and a Midway filled with games and rides.  Agriculture is still a central focus of the fair, offering displays, events, competitions, and more to share the importance of the industry to the state.  Among these exhibits is the dairy building, where visitors can sample different kinds of milk and see the butter sculpture, a fair staple since 1969.  Fun fact – after the fair is over, the 800-pounds of butter used for the sculptures is made into biofuel for use by college buses for the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry.  To date, the 13-day attendance record for the New York State Fair was over 1.3 million in 2019.  Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the fair did not occur in 2020, but returned for an extended run of 18-days in 2021.

1953 3¢ Future Farmers of America stamp
US #1024 – Many fairs include Future Farmers of America exhibits and demonstrations.

Want more fun fair facts?

  • America’s early fairs were held as early as 1745 to buy and sell livestock.  Massachusetts hosted the first US county fair in 1807, though it was mostly a sheep shearing demonstration and contest.
  • Massachusetts hosts “the Big E” Eastern States Exposition, which is a combined fair for Massachusetts, Maine, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont.  Pennsylvania doesn’t hold a state fair.  Instead, they have over 100 smaller fairs.
  • Michigan was the second state to host a state fair beginning in 1849.
1952 3¢ 4-H Club stamp
US #1005 – Many fairs have 4-H events and activities.
  • The Georgia State Fair includes the Banana Derby, in which monkeys race dogs.  Minnesota hosts a Llamarama in which llama owners dress their animals in fun costumes.  And Wisconsin hosts a “Moo-La-Palooza” where the person with the best moo gets $1,000.
1948 3¢ Centennial of the American Poultry Industry stamp
US #968 – Poultry exhibits and competitions are found at many fairs.
  • Texas holds the record for the highest attendance of any state fair with 3.5 million visitors each year.  Minnesota has the largest single-day attendance at 200,000.  And Alaska had the highest attendance by population in 2015, with 41%.
  • Hog calling is common at several state fairs.  However, some states, such as Illinois and Iowa, have husband calling, in which wives call their husbands, bringing a humorous twist to this tradition.  Iowa also stages an Outhouse Race, with the winner receiving a golden toilet seat.
1973 8¢ Rural America: Angus Cattle stamp
US #1504 – Wisconsin holds the World Beef Expo, one of the largest cattle expos in the Midwest.
  • In states where it’s legal, such as Oregon, marijuana plants are judged in agricultural competitions.
  • Alaska’s fair is older than the state itself.  The first fair was held in 1936, more than two decades before Alaska became a state in 1959.  Alaska also has a giant cabbage weigh-off; in 2012 they set the world record for the heaviest green cabbage at 138.25 pounds.
  • California’s state fair is the only one with its own monorail.

Are there fun facts about your state, county, or other local fair?  Share them in the comments below.

Find more state fair facts here.

Browse more farming and agriculture stamps here and find more animal stamps here.

FREE printable This Day in History album pages
Download a PDF of today’s article.
Get a binder or other supplies to create your This Day in History album.

Discover what else happened on This Day in History.

Did you like this article? Click here to rate:
Share this Article


  1. The Los Angeles County Fair is an annual county fair. It was first held on October 17, 1922, and ran for five days through October 21, 1922, in a former beet field in Pomona, California.Highlights of the Fair’s first year were harness racing, chariot races and an airplane wing-walking exhibition. The fair is the 4th largest fair in the United States. Since its opening year, over 89,000,000 visitors have attended the LA County Fair.

  2. The stamps shown in this article are some of my very favorites although I had not thought of them together concerning the topic of the article. I really enjoyed the read.

  3. From what I can find on-line, CT & RI are the only 2 states with no State Fair. PA does have a state-wide agricultural event in Harrisburg in late Jan., but I could not find info on what it is called.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *