The Hoosick Driving Park and Fair Association
By Gilbert Wright, Historian 1996 ‑ 2000 Town of Hoosick
The Hoosick Driving Park and Fair Association existed in the late eighteen and early nineteen-hundreds. There seems to be little information about its activities or about the association itself.
There is a premium book in the Miller Museum that advertises the Second Annual Fair of The Hoosick Driving Park and Fair Association to be held on August 29,30,31 and September 1, 1899. The fair was held on grounds located north of the village on the east side of Route 22. This land, then known as Webster Grove and later as Tomlinson Grove, had a quarter-mile racetrack, a grandstand and a picnic area. The picnic area was surrounded by a grove of beech trees beside a running brook. It must have been an ideal place for community activities and family outings. I have been told that circuses were held on these grounds in later years.
The premium book contained the following information: Entries for this fair, were 'open to the world'. All of the exhibitors were charged $1.00, which entitled them to a pass to enter the fair twice each day. When prize money was awarded, 10% of the premium was deducted unless the premium was $10.00 or less.
The entries were divided into seven divisions ‑ Horses, Cattle, Sheep, Poultry, Dogs, Farm and Garden Products and Implements. Each division was divided into classes. There were six classes of Horses, first prize $8.00; thirteen classes of Cattle, first prize $8.00; twelve classes of Sheep fist prize $5.00; one hundred and forty‑three classes of Poultry, first prize $1.00; forty‑one classes of Dogs, first prize $2.00. Farm and Garden Products were divided into two classes: Field Crops, which included twenty-three varieties, and Vegetables, seventeen varieties, first prize for each was $1.50. Implements and machines. were displayed but no prizes were awarded.
Horse Racing was a big attraction at all fairs. The Hoosick Driving Park and Fair Association provided a contest for Trotting and Pacing. The purses for the winners were from two hundred and fifty dollars to five hundred dollars. The entry fees for these races were five per cent of the purse.
The premium book included advertisements for local businesses and the regulations for shipping livestock to and from the fair by rail. This is very interesting to read as it shows the differences and the similarities between the earlier fairs and the fairs of today.
Fairs are a part of people's lives today as they have been for several centuries. The history of fairs is interesting and shows many changes, both in purpose and in operation. Fairs were held in the twelfth and thirteenth century in Europe and were first held for religious celebrations. Later they became social, political and economic functions. In 1641 the New Netherland government authorized the first fair in America to be held in New Amsterdam.
Fairs grew rapidly across the colonies in the seventeen-hundreds and continue today with great success. They have played an important part in the growth of our country since the very start. Each fair has an impact on the local economy. Today, approximately 3 million dollars change hands prior to and during each county fair. Most of this is within a radius of thirty miles. Fairs have encouraged those who raise stock, and/or produce to strive for improvement. This is done through the spirit of competition that climaxes at the fair site each year. Commercial exhibits and demonstrations of new products and materials has helped to improve our standard of living as they are applied to farm and home.
During the years of the Hoosick Park and Fair Association, three other local fairs were also popular. The Rensselaer County Agricultural and Horticultural Society Fair, then held in Lansingburgh, The Agriculture and Liberal Arts Society of Rensselaer County Fair held in Nassau, and the Cambridge Fair. Today, this would be an "overkill." However, at the turn of the century transportation was horse and buggy, trolley and train. Fairs made it possible to promote social events crucial to the exchange of ideas and goods. 1t gave those interested the opportunity to engage in competition and the opportunity to enjoy entertainment otherwise seen only in large cities.
While it seems that our Hoosick Fair was relatively short lived, other fairs had their hard times also. The Rensselaer County Agricultural and Horticultural Society had several high and low times, almost losing their charter in 1919, their centennial year. The Fair at Nassau continued until 1944. The Cambridge Fair closed in the early forties after over 70 years of openings. Some fairs have closed because of changes in transportation, changes in economy, and sometimes poor management. The reason that the fair at the Hoosick Driving Park closed is not known. However its very existence was important to the town and must be remembered.