Steven Thompson special to the News Press
It might be hard to believe, but the first Mitchell County Fair was held before the Civil War.
Looking through the information in the publication “A Hundred Years of Mitchell County Fair History” published by the Mitchell County Fair Board in 1971, it was revealed that the first local county fair had been held in Mitchell in 1858. or 1859, and the Fair was then moved to Osage in 1866.
A deed was issued to the local county agricultural society on June 15, 1871, for a plot of land (considered to be 20 acres) then located south of Osage, where the present fairground resides, for 1,668, $ 80.
The necessary buildings were placed on the land, as well as “one of the best half-mile tracks in the state” where bicycle and horse races were held.
The first fairs were held in mid-September, with one fair being rescheduled for October. Early admission at the gate was 35 cents, and a story filed by a special reporter for Press News (Oct. 2, 1879) stated: Large crowd at an Iowa County Fair.
A wooden grandstand for 1,000 spectators was erected alongside Chestnut Street for the 1888 fair, and in 1889 the Sixth Regiment Band entertained there for three days.
In addition to horse and bicycle races. festival-goers in 1891 witnessed a hot air balloon ascent, from which a man was parachuted. In 1892, Carrie Lane Chapman spoke about women’s suffrage at the fair.