Hello, my name is Henry Drexler, I was born and raised here in Chenango County and grew up on a dairy farm in Smyrna, New York. My relationship with the Chenango County Fair began probably around the age of six or seven, when I joined 4H and started exhibiting my vegetables at the Fair. Shortly thereafter, I also started raising Holstein calf and had, I participated in the calf project. I never actually showed my heifer at the Fair. But I did attend the Fair just about every year to look at the vegetables, if nothing else, and see what I had won if anything.
And I marched in the 4H parade and later, with the Sherburne band. We used to march in front of the grandstand and do field exhibitions at night under the lights. And then we’d be turned loose at the fairgrounds and like teenagers anywhere we would wander around eating cotton candy and sausages and looking at the exhibits and hanging out.
And that’s pretty typical of my experiences of the Fair. Over the course of my lifetime, I don’t go to the Fair, haven’t gone to the Fair every year, but I have gone more times than I can remember. And I’m always amazed. I’ve lived in the country, I mean, like outside of the village all my life. And I don’t see many people on an average day. In fact, I only see my family. And so coming to the Fair is like mind-boggling to see all the different shapes and sizes of people. And that just seeing the people at the Fair has always fascinated me.
About a year and a half ago, I was asked to do a history of the Fair. And I started doing research and I’ve been working on that project ever since. And it’s given me a whole new perspective on the Fair, made me appreciate the significance of the Fair and the culture of this county, far more than I ever did growing up.
It started, actually, the first Fair was in 1819 if you can believe it, even before I was born, and it got off to a rocky start. There were fairs for a couple years. And then I think that the agricultural society at that time collapsed. And then there was a gap of quite a few years until 1846, the agricultural society was reorganized again. And they held a fair in 1847, which was the first fair in the current series of fairs that we’re talking about today as part of the 175th celebration of the Chenango County Fair.
The agricultural society has had its ups and downs in terms of its financial well-being and the location of the fairs and squabbling among its members and competition with other towns in the county throughout those years. And 19 – excuse me – and in 1852, the Fair was held in Norwich, at a time when Oxford had expected to have the Fair in Oxford. Because preceding that the Fair had been rotated amongst the different villages, Sherburne, Norwich, and Oxford, and Oxford felt it was their turn.
And when the Fair Board decided, or the agricultural, executive committee of the agricultural society decided that they would, for the next four years, hold the Fair in Norwich. It really ticked off the folks down in Oxford and the southern part of the county. So that’s one example of the types of problems that they encountered over the years. When I read that, it reminded me of the squabble that had taken place when they were citing the courthouse in Norwich, because Oxford had wanted to have the courthouse in Oxford and it didn’t get it.