This fair began in 1850, one year after the Norway Fair (later Oxford County Fair.) Though it was incorporated as “The World's Fair” in 1928, it did not always have that name. In our archives we have a photocopy of an 1896 article from the Bethel newspaper which tells of the “Cattle Show and Fair” held on a Saturday in October (postponed from Friday because of rain.) Traditionally, fairs grew up around cattle and horse sales and it was little different in the late 19th century. The newspaper article tells of “some excellent stock on the ground and some interesting drawing matches” as well as “a few selling agents,” the “alligator man,” a merry-go-round and peanut venders. Prizes were awarded to draft oxen, large horses, small horses, Holstein and Jersey bulls. Prize winners had familiar last names, such as Sawin, Abbott, Pike, Morrill, Millett, Knightly, Merrill and Hobbs.
A curious fact about the committee to prepare the grounds in 1896 was that they all shared a first name: they were John Flint, John Horr, John Lewis, John Lord, John F. Mason and John P. Mason! Must have been confusing. Also, as at Farmers' Markets ever since medieval days in Europe, displays of prize-winning fruits and vegetables advertised the skill of the farmers. Henry Sawin took first prize on squash and other produce, including popcorn and twenty varieties of apples. Henry Plummer exhibited a first place cabbage which weighed 23 lbs. Mr. A. B. Washburn had “very fine potatoes” and Amos Barker had prize winning yellow corn. Ladies' “fancy work” was displayed, along with butter and flowers, and the winners had names like Mrs. Fiske, Fernall, Flint, Whitcombe, Allen and Shedd. Also on display: a Singer sewing machine and an 8-foot rattlesnake skin. In the 1970s Wilbur Button was interviewed about the fair — most of which is in our second history book (ppg. 116-117). “Tom Green's Fair,” as it was called in the beginning, was held for years on the North Waterford Common below the church and exhibits were set up on store platforms and in front of the schoolhouse (today the post office). Trotting horse races were held along the road from Lynchville Corner toward the dump. Once autos came into use, men were stationed along all the roads into town to collect 25 cents from each car — until eventually the State Police stopped this practice. Random prize amounts were distributed out of these fees but no records were kept until 1924.
By 1928 an agricultural society was incorporated, organized at the Odd Fellows Hall (our North Waterford museum), with directors Wilfred Hersey, Wilbur Button, Melvin Knight, Ernest Crouse and Ralph Knight. There has been speculation that the global name might have come from the famous Lynchville sign. However, that was only put in place a few years after the incorporation in 1928, which already had named it “World's Fair.” We suspect it's more likely because it was a time of “world's fairs” and expositions all over the country. The Little World's Fair needed a bigger site by 1930. Three sites were considered but the present location, though very hilly, was chosen because of its proximity to the church. Dinners had been served in the church basement ever since the beginning. In time, Freddie's Beano and official Carnival rides were added. Dances had originally been held in the Grange and IOOF Halls. A dance hall on the new, leased fairgrounds was built in the 1930s. Its collapse in the heavy snow of 1977 led to the building of a new dance hall by Edgar Mills, Jim Hunt, Russell Smith, Nelson Rolfe, Vern & Derwood Maxfield, Albert & Stan McAllister and Richard & Louis (Lewis?) Jones (according to newspaper accounts). Wilbur Button's barn was moved onto the fairgrounds sometime in the 1950s. Famously, it was moved so carefully that open bottles filled with liquid placed on the frame did not spill a drop. Around 1975 the fair dates moved from September to four days in August; eventually settling in July to avoid conflicting with other fair dates. The North Waterford fair has not met every year. In 1918, the national flu epidemic cancelled it. In other years there were midway carnival and weather problems but it continues on, with the help of fundraising dances throughout the year. In 1973, the Exhibition Hall was expanded and a games building was built, but it was only a two-day event that year. Fiddling contests, pig scrambles, horse pulling, 4H and Grange exhibits have been added. Horseshoes, blueberry pie and potato salad contests, Soak-the-Dope, Firemen's hamburgers, pony rides, woodsmen's demonstrations, llamas, a baby contest and Friday night dances have expanded the three day fair in recent years. It is truly a community event and we hope it can continue for a long time. No matter how old we get, we are never too old to enjoy the fair.
This year, 2016, will be the 166th year. Agriculture and Community is what the fair is about just like in the early days.