Our County History
by County Historian Marion W. Coplen

The first Kosciusko county fair was held ninety-six years ago in the court house and court-yard in Warsaw. It was primarily an agricultural fair, being sponsored by the newly-formed Kosciusko County Agriculture society.

Because there were many who felt that a fairgrounds site should be acquired, six acres of land on the northwest outskirts of Warsaw was purchased. The society spent about $800 to buy, fence, clear and improve these grounds. Here the fairs of 1857 through 1860 were held. Within a few years it was felt that a still bigger area was needed so that horse racing could be added to the program. The society purchased ten acres in East Warsaw on May 18, 1861, for $1000 and on the same day sold the old site, without improvements for $600.

The buildings and fencing were moved from the old grounds, several new buildings were built and a 1/3 mile track was constructed.

The first fair on the new grounds was held on Oct. 2, 3 and 4 in 1861. In 1874 some local horse racing enthusiasts talked the society into buying five acres adjoining the grounds so that a half-mile track could be built. It was felt that the bigger track would attract more racing entries from a distance and thus prove a financial blessing to the fair.

It is interesting to note that with the 1874 addition these grounds were bounded by Scott, Center and Bronson streets and the Pennsylvania railroad--just a stone's throw from the entrance of our present fair headquarters.

The agriculture society was always in "hot water" financially because many of the fairs did not pay. The annual premium lists usually ran around three thousand dollars. The 1874 addition and the subsequent improvements made on the track caused the society to become so hopelessly in debt that after the 1885 fair the organization decided to sell the grounds.

Had the society not tried to expand so rapidly, it is possible that annual fairs would have been held at the Scott street fairgrounds well into the 20th century. As it was the chain of annual county fairs which was started in 1856 was broken after 1885.

Warsaw Times-Union Sat. Aug. 12, 1952