BUFFALO COUNTY FAIR HISTORY
The Buffalo County Agricultural Fair has a long and vibrant history that spans back into the mid-1800's. The original mission was set up by the Buffalo County Agriculture Society and includes "...improvement of agriculture, and the study of the kindred arts and sciences." Although the mission has stayed consistent, there have been many other changes over the past 141 years.
The First Buffalo County Fair
The first fair of Buffalo County was held in the fall of 1872 in the southern part of the county at Cream. People traveled by lumber wagons before dawn to be a part of this grand event. Exhibits included duck sculptures made of butter, cattle, horse races and the first community organ. Since it was a time with limited means of communication, many came to converse and share stories, speaking primarily in German.
With the first three fairs being successful averaging 1500 people in attendance, it was decided to move the fairgrounds to Alma as the attendance would surely continue to grow and this would give better access to people in other areas of the county. With flooding from the Mississippi river, there were years where the fair did not have many exhibits, rather log rolling contests and water activities.
The fair continued to be successful in Alma, but was forced to find another new location in 1884 when the railroad was to be built on the land where the fair was to be held. From here, the fair moved to the Mondovi Flats and finally to its current home on Harrison street.
In the early 1900's many fair goers came to see the high flying entertainment. Literally, the fair booked entertainers such as Pilot Oscar Brindley in 1912 who brought his own bi-plane and a French Aeronaut who wore a parachute and jumped from a hot air balloon in 1903. This type of entertainment was much too expensive to continue as they became highly sought after. Other entertainment included live animals such as seals and bears, bands from across the country, and trick acrobatics.
The fair underwent many changes as technology improved and the culture changed. It wasn’t until 1919 that the fair allowed the youth to exhibit their projects. A few years later the Buffalo County Fair became one of the few structures in the vicinity with electricity which was not readily available to the public for almost 10 years. As the years went on and the crowds grew, enhancements such as blacktop on the midway and the addition of the Commercial Building were made.
Today, the fair is run by a board of directors (Buffalo County Agriculture Fair Association) and works collaboratively with the UW-Extension in Alma. Although the entertainment has changed over the years and the people have come and gone, the mission and community that the Buffalo County Agricultural Fair works hard to uphold has remained.