It was 1856 when a group of county residents got together to form the county fair, a place to feature the products of the farm, field, garden and home. With the donation of 10 acres of land on Marion’s East side, the first fair was held in 1857.
There were no buildings or any kind for that first fair and tickets were sold through a small hole cut in a wooden fence. A dry goods box served as a complete ticket office. The Ladies Department consisted of a few yards of cotton stretched from tree to tree on the southeast part of the grounds.
Unlike today, the early fair goers came in wagons and on horseback and brought their own fixin’s for a full day from sunup to sundown.
In 1910, Theodore Roosevelt visited the fair during his campaign and entertained 10,000 people in the fair’s infield. Roosevelt, ever the polished politician, told those in attendance that the Williamson County Fairgrounds surpassed any such fair grounds in his home state of New York.
Others visiting the fair were General John A. Logan, Col. Robert G. Ingersoll,. LeRoy A. Goddard, William Jennings Bryan, Senator Alben Barkley, and Secretary of War Harry Woodring..
In 1915, the St. Louis Republic Newspaper was on hand to cover the fair for a special feature edition. More than 40,000 people were in attendance that year.
The newspaper wrote, “Take 60-
Today the Williamson County Fair continues to draw residents from Southern Illinois despite the competition of the DuQuoin State Fair and the mega-
While most county fairs have long since closed and their fair grounds are housing developments or shopping centers, Marion continues to host this annual event.