The first Fair was sponsored by the Albany Agricultural Society in 1813.
From then until 1892, fairs were held in Albany and other surrounding towns, including Bethlehem Center and Slingerlands.
The Altamont Driving Park and Fair Association was incorporated on May 20, 1893. The Board of Directors voted to establish a grandstand (which would be the first permanent structure on the fairgrounds) and also instructed him to draw up plans for a front gate.
Within a month the Board of Directors also approved the purchase 24.5 acres of land in Altamont originally owned by George Severson now held in trust by Isaac Reamer to be known as the “Altamont Fair Grounds.” This is the site of the present fairgrounds.
The first fair to be held at the Altamont location was from September 12 through 15, 1893. Admission was 25 cents for adults, and the net receipts for the four days was $884.13. A racetrack was built in front of the Grandstand, and horse racing was held at the first fair and continued at the Altamont Fair until the mid 1990’s.
In 1896 the Board of Directors appointed a committee to travel to the Cobleskill Fairgrounds to obtain plans and cost estimates of duplicating Cobleskill’s two story Fair Building to be used at Altamont for the “exhibition of Domestic, Manufacture Art and Fancy Work and Fruits and Vegetables.” On August 26, 1896 the Board examined the completed Exhibition Hall and voted to approve and accept the structure, which thy felt had been built with “superior workmanship.” This building is now known as the Flower & Fine Arts a Building and has recently been named to the State and National Register of Historic Sites.
In 1897, the Altamont Driving Park and Fair Association changed its name to the Albany County Agricultural Society and Exposition. Over the next 20 years, more property was acquired and more buildings were constructed, including the Poultry Building in 1899 and a Ladies’ Building (now the Vegetable Building )
In addition to the the agricultural, animal and domestic arts competitions and exhibitions, the Fair has, through the years, incorporated other attractions. Auto racung was started in 1915 and continued through the 1990s. Other feature events included wrestling, boxing, a rodeo, a fall out shelter exhibit in the 1960, dramatic readings and plays, an Atlas Missile exhibit in 1962 and, in 1964, a raffle for a house. Of course, Fair queens have been crowned. Here’s smattering of Fair ads from the 1920’s through the 1960s.
If you are on Facebook, you might want to join the Facebook Group, “Albany …the way it was”, to share your memories of Albany, NY with others. Here’s the link.