In the early days of the Delaware State Fair, visitors were seen in their very finest attire, dodging speeding car races, and enjoying hamburgers and hot dogs. The fair has seen a great deal of evolution throughout the years, from expansion of the grounds to a greater variety of food offering, entertainment, and livestock showcasing. This July, the fair hit quite the milestone when it celebrated its 100th year. While the fair now includes a demolition derby and concerts, it adheres to its roots as a celebration of mechanical arts, horticulture, agriculture, and the domestic and rural economy. Each has retained a presence in the state.
The fair may have been mentioned all the way back in 1869, but its true iteration didn’t begin until 1919 after a few neighbours dreamed up the idea at the Harrington railway station. Written history asserts that the fair’s initial purpose was to encourage and promote agriculture, as well as to provide pleasure to rural communities. Some 100 years later, it has evolved into a combination of small family operations and high-tech enterprises.
The fair now attracts over 300,000 each year on a 300-acre ground encompassing the Harrington Raceway Casino and the Centre Ice Rink. The demonstrations and educational exhibits are still aimed at advancing agriculture, horticulture, and livestock, with an emphasis on such educational activities as Future Farmers of America and 4-H. There’s a special significance in the relationship between the fair and 4-H- a National young organisations network that focuses on agriculture as the state has the country’s highest rate of 4-H participation per capita. The non-profit organisation maintains its focus on promoting agricultural heritage, along with the values of Maryland’s Eastern Shore and southern Delaware, and can thank volunteer support for being able to do so.
As is the case with the majority of state fairs, carnival games and amusement rides have been an important part of the fair since its inception. An outside organisation introduced more games and rides in the 1970s, and the fair now offers everything from children’s rides to a bungee simulator, roller coasters, and mega drops. Musical performances have always proved popular. This year, the fair welcomed a number of big names from the world of music, with an emphasis on country. Brothers Osbourne, Brantley Gilbert, Darci Lynne, Sugarland, Dan + Shay, Reba McEntire, and legendary soul singer, Gladys Knight all performed here in 2019.