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The Dover Fairs

In the book “A History and Civics of Dover Village”, co-author Hazel Rutherford makes that observation that even though the Dover Fair was a yearly event in this town for 40 years in the late 1800s, “Many present residents of Dover would be surprised if they were told that the main entertainment of this village…was a fair which took place on the present Dover High School Grounds”. Today, this is the site of Burneson Middle School, and the old Red Brick School.
The fair was put on by the Dover Agricultural and Mechanical Society. This society was a Dover institution that aimed at promoting agricultural and mechanical innovations for the benefit of the community, as per their constitution. To this end, they brought together the most enterprising men in town to plan a yearly fair that displayed the latest in agricultural techniques and machinery from the surrounding area.
Though the Dover Agricultural and Mechanical Society was a group solely from Dover Township, the Fair they presented brought together people from many of the communities around what is now Cuyahoga County and Lorain County. Each year, certain townships were given the chance to compete in the competitions. Likewise, people from these communities were chosen to judge and present awards to the winners. Communities that participated included: North Ridgeville, Avon, Rockport (now Rocky River) and North Olmsted. Sometimes, people even came into town from as far afield as Berea and Elyria.
The fair was a two day event, usually going on in September. There was a band from Dover that would welcome people on the opening day. Members of the Society were admitted free, while all others paid 25 cents to get in. There were displays of food, sewing, and flowers in the Fine Arts Hall (the old Dover Academy) where, evidently, most of the women congregated. The men kept to the exhibits of farm equipment and products. There were livestock sheds, competitions for the biggest pumpkins, displays of crops, and new innovations in farming. There was also plenty of food for sale at various refreshment stands, a staple at all fairs regardless of time period. The peanut stands were particularly popular with the young people. A hot lunch hall was also present. According to Rutherford, horse racing was by far the biggest attraction. On the western edge of the grounds was a one-third of a mile race track where between 10 and 12 horses could race. Also a big draw was the pulling teams.
Eventually, there was talk of combining the multiple fairs around Cuyahoga County, into a single County Fair. After a vote as to the location, Berea was chosen to be the new location despite the fact that the Dover Agricultural and Mechanical Society had expressed interest in donating their grounds for the event. Ever since the Cuyahoga County Fair has been held at its present home in Berea. In 1897, the last fair was held in Dover. Following this, the fair grounds were turned over to the township, and the fine arts building, which was formerly the Dover Academy, was turned back into a school. It housed the high school until the building of the Red Brick School in 1909.

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