The city of Albany hosted the first fair in Albany County in 1819. The Albany Agricultural Society sponsored the Agricultural Jubilee, also known as the Ploughboy's Holiday. This event was held in both Washington Park and at the State Capitol. The first fairs focused around livestock and occasionally boasted a horse race. From then until 1892 fairs were held in Albany or surrounding towns.
On August 6, 1892 a public meeting was held in Altamont. During this meeting a committee was formed and tasked with investigating the possibility of hosting an annual fair in the town of Altamont.
In 1893 Altamont hosted the first annual Albany County Fair. The main event was harness horse racing in front of the original Grand Stand. Much has changed since then; the grand stand is now the poultry building! The Treasurer's and Secretary's offices originally stood at the Grand Street entrance and have since been converted to restrooms. The Altamont Fairgrounds, one of the largest fairgrounds in New York State now sprawl over more than 138 acres.
As the times have changed, so has the fair:
1893 - This year was busy for the committee responsible for organizing the fair.
May 20 - The Altamont Driving Park and Fair Association was incorporated. That very same day the association voted to accept the plans drawn up by Howard P. Foster to construct a grandstand and the front gate. Foster came in as the lowest bidder for the job at an estimated cost of $1,975 for the Grandstand and $115 for the front gate.
June 10 - The Board of Directors approved the purchase 24.5 acres of land in Altamont. The land was originally owned by George Severson and is now held in trust by Isaac Reamer to be known as the "Altamont Fair Grounds." This site is still part of the fairgrounds today.
September 12-15 - The first fair to be held at the Altamont Fairgrounds. Admission was 25 cents for adults and the net receipts for the four days was $884.13.
1896 -The Flower/Fine Arts building, modeled after a similar building at the Cobleskill Fairgrounds, was erected. This building is now in the final stages of being named to the State and National Register of Historic Sites.
1897 -The Altamont Driving Park and Fair Association changed its name to the Albany County Agricultural Society and Exposition. This was the start of rapid expansion for the Fair. Over the next 20 years more property was acquired and many buildings were constructed.
1899 -The Poultry Building was built at a total cost of $1,322.
1901 -The Ladies' Building, now known as the vegetable building, was built at a total cost of $875.85.
1910 - The first Auto Racing events were held. The grand prize was $25 and second and third place won $15 and $10 respectively. This tradition continued for over 30 years!
1916 - Controversy shadowed the fair. Without providing a reason, the Albany County Health Department issued a ruling that no one under the age of 16 would be allowed to attend the fair. The Fair Board publicly condemned this action by the Health Department.
1922 - The Altamont Fair became a two county fair. Schenectady County was invited to join the fair when General Electric (GE) sponsored a special radio concert broad cast from the Fairgrounds.
1924 - The local utility company installed 7 lights around the grounds and fair hours were extended into the night for the first time. The first fireworks show introduced a new level of excitement for fairgoers.
1925 - A large wooden Grandstand was built. This grandstand showcased main events at the fair for 70 years before it was destroyed by a fire in 1995.
1942-43 - Altamont Fair is suspended during World War II.
1945 - The Altamont Fair continued to expand as Greene County joined the summer fun. The following year the Fair became officially known as the Albany, Schenectady, and Greene County Fair Association. The Altamont Fair is the only 3 County Fair in New York State.
1946 - The fair association change names again and became the Albany, Schenectady and Greene County Fair Association.
1953 - George Sawin gave the fair organizers right of way to use the road that is now the main entrance to the fairgrounds.
1971 - The Hayes House was donated to the fair. This fully furnished Victorian home became the first museum. Since then, the museums have become an important part of the summertime celebration. Current museums include the Carriage and Village, Farmhouse, Auto, Schoolhouse, Circus, Blacksmith and Farm Machinery Museums.
2000's - The Altamont Fair continues to evolve and expand. Throughout the last 10 years over $1 million has been invested in the grounds and buildings. This expansion includes the construction of the Commercial Building, Cow Barn and Administration.
The fair is designed to bring out the best in entertainment, provide an educational experience, and showcase local history and traditions. Fair organizers join past and present in this annual celebration of agriculture, history, and current culture.