History of the Fair


History

In January, 1908, Clarence B. Wilson, a newcomer to Aurora, had the idea of staging an agricultural show. He talked on the subject with Edward Chambers, a local businessman and chicken fancier, William Ketcham, a prominent Dearborn County farmer, Joseph R. Houston, the public school superintendent, Adam Hill, a wharf-boat owner and local coal merchant, and William Hoskins, a manufacturer. Thus was born the first Aurora Farmers’ Fair and Indiana’s oldest street festival.

At that first fair, no rigs or teams were permitted on Main Street or Second Street. Extra hitching posts were erected in other sections of town to accommodate the visitors. A ladies rest room was placed in the Neff Building on Second Street. Exhibit entries were accepted by Llewellyn E. Davies, fair secretary, and all were displayed out in the open where they could easily be seen. Long tables, constructed of trestles and boards, were placed in the gutters at the edge of the brick and cement pavement on both sides of Second Street from Bridgeway to Judiciary Streets. J. C. Wright and sons performed this task. The day of the first fair dawned warm and pleasant, and huge crowds swarmed into town. Horses and buggies, two-horse wagons, surreys and spring wagons, people on horseback, and a few in single and double cylinder automobiles all made their way to Aurora. From Kentucky and Ohio they came, from Switzerland, Ohio, Ripley, Jennings, and other counties they came, over roads thick with dust to where the huge event was staged. The old Aurora ferry, which was powered by two horses, which walked a treadmill to turn the paddle wheels, worked overtime that day.

And it continued.

Clarence B. Wilson was chairman for the second fair. Edward Chambers was elected chairman, for the third fair, by the Aurora Business Men’s Association. In 1912, Robert L. Johnson was elected president of the Fair Association, a position he held until 1959, with the exception of two years when William Neukom and T.J. Martin held the office for one year each. In 1940, a building on the riverfront was purchased from the Indianapolis Chair Company, and all exhibits were housed there. Prior to this, exhibits were placed in the old tobacco warehouse on Exporting Street. As the years passed, concessions were brought in to form a midway on Second and Main streets. Stage shows providing the finest inn entertainment were added. A huge street parade has continued to be a featured annual event. In 1958, there were over 25,000 people in attendance, with over 1,600 exhibit entries, twice the number a half century ago when it all began.

In February, 1959, the Aurora Business Men’s Association invited the Aurora Lions Club to assume sponsorship and management of the fair. The invitation was accepted, and continues to this day. In May, 1969, the Aurora Lions Club purchased the former Aurora Casket Company office building at the corner of Second and Main Streets to house all exhibits and a fair office. The building was tragically lost to arson in July, 1997. However, construction of a new facility began in the summer of 1999 and was ready for the 2000 fair.

The Aurora Lions Club pledge to continue the Farmers’ Fair and their service to the community.

Fair Board - Committee Presidents

1959 Ray Kern 1973 Larry Petty 1997-2001 George Feustel
1960 William E. Barrott 1974-75 Jim Long 2002-03 Frank Burton
1961 Dan Meyer 1976-77 Bill Cassidy 2004-08 George Feustel
1962 Bob Laker 1978 Bob Fogle 2009-13 Dave Hizer
1963 John Wunderlich 1979 Carol Grubbs 2014 - Present John Petty
1964 Ervin Morehead 1980 Dale Moeller
1965 Gene Weaver 1981 Doug Manford
1966-67 Robert McCarter 1982-84 Ken Strasemeier
1968 Carl Petty 1985-88 Rick Strzynski
1969-70 Carl Lothridge 1989-90 Charles Teaney
1971 Ron Nocks 1991-94 Ron Goodpastor
1972 Ken Molen 1995-96 Marvin Mangold

Fair Managers

51st - 55th Harold (Pete) Stephenson
56st - 57th Alvin Taylor
58st - 61st Gene Weaver
62nd - 76th Carl Petty
77th - Present Larry Petty