History of Ford County Fair

William Haworth, the vocational agriculture teacher, had an idea:  Why not sponsor an annual community fair?  His plans drew support from others, including John Beck, Clarence "Tiny" Wilson, Walter C. Iehl, W. C. Holmes, G. F. Howk and Roscoe Buchholz.  So it was that in 1926, the Ford County Fair of Melvin was born.  It was called the "Melvin Community Fair" then, however.  Not until 1941, when the fair was incorporated, did it become the "Ford County Fair of Melvin," upon a motion made by M. I. Kendrick at a regular meeting of the Fair Association.

One tent housed all exhibits at that first fair, with the high school gymnasium being used for the household exhibits.  Entertainment during the early years consisted of a football game and one or two professional acts.  Each year the fair grew in size.  Finally, exhibits, tents, and the Wilson Show filled the grounds and several adjacent lots.

The quality of the entertainment improved also, and the fair became famous for its "free acts."  Perhaps the top act of all time was the Hustrei Troup, a high-wire act which won world-wide acclaim.  Another important part of the entertainment was the dances.  Orchestras, such as Ray Bozarth and Tiny Hill, played and the customers paid five cents per dance.  Later, all-evening tickets were sold.  In 1953 a Guy Lombardo ticket cost $2.50

Other famous bands performing at the Melvin Fair were Eddie Howard, Art Kassel, Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, and Jan Garber.  This era passed, and the young people turned to rock-and-roll groups such as the "One-Eyed Jacks."  Modern entertainment includes a demolition derby, beauty pageant, tractor pull, home talent show and the dances.

By 1951, the fair had outgrown the space north of the high school.  The Fair Association sold six residential lots on north Center street, and used this money to purchase seventeen acres of land at the east edge of Melvin from Harry Benz.  In 1955 seven more acres of land adjoining the fairgrounds were purchased from S. E. Shives, making a total of twenty-five acres.
The first permanent building on the new site was a 30' x 90' concrete block building for the household exhibits.  Other buildings have been added, until the appraisal of the grounds in 1971 was set at $100,000.  In addition to the buildings, there is also a small lake and a bleacher area capable of seating 3,000 persons.

In April 1956, an agreement with the Ford County 4-H Club gave that organization permission to hold its fair on the Melvin fairgrounds each year.  The 4-H group donated $4,000 to the building fund for this priviledge.

The following figures are the amounts given in premiums in 1932:  beef-$85, dairy-$184, hogs-$120 and sheep-$45.

Source:  Melvin Centennial Commemorative Booklet