Although the Tioga County Fair has only been in Whitneyville since 1967, the fair itself has a history that dates back as early as 1854.
The first fair, organized by an agricultural society in Wellsboro, was designed to encourage farming and mainly consisted of produce exhibits. It was believed that because the general public, at that time, was concerned more with lumber, mining, and railroad schemes, the agriculture society could not be sustained, nor could a fair be held with any success. Yet a moderate number of people turned out for the event, which indeed pleased society members.
By 1855, 33 members were listed on the executive committee of the society. Many of these members were prominent county businessmen and farmers who were dedicated to the belief that agriculture interests in Tioga County should be fostered and encouraged.
That year, the fair's gross receipts showed a more lively interest.
The third annual fair the society held was on Oct. 8 and 9, 1856. Premiums amounted to $700. It was a highly creditable exhibition of county production.
The fair held in 1857 was also well-attended. The society was instrumental in doing much good by showing what the soil would produce under proper cultivation.
In 1859, Horace Greeley, an influential American journalist and political leader noted for his vigorous espousal of the antislavery cause in the pre-American Civil War period, delivered the annual address.
Annual fairs were held up until 1861, when they were discontinued due to the break-out of the Civil War.
In 1875, the Honorable John I. Mitchell, who later became a United States Senator, was secretary of the society. In a letter he wrote, he stated that the annual fairs were revived in 1866 and in that year more than $4,000 were raised to put up buildings and grade a race-course.
The money, however, was expended on grounds in Wellsboro so ill adapted to the purpose that the project was practically abandoned.
In the summer of 1880, quite a large sum of money was raised by subscription in Wellsboro and the vicinity and the grounds were put in excellent condition.
Of course, over the years the fair has been moved. For a number of years the event was held in Mansfield.
Then in April of 1964, a group of dairy farmers and representatives from each of Tioga County's Agriculture organizations met and decided they needed permanent facilities for their dairy shows. From this meeting, the North Central Agriculture Authority was established in 1965.
The permanent fairgrounds became a reality with the purchase of land for $4,000 from Byron Benedict in Whitneyville.
The first official minutes of the NCAA revealed those elected to head the organization were: Bill Inscho, president; William J. Smith, vice president; Verne Bowen, secretary; and Fred Brugger, treasurer. Directors were James Briggs, Jr., Walter Krotzer, and Ralph Benson.
In Aug. of 1967, the first Tioga County Fair was held on the new fairgrounds, complete with a dairy barn, show area, and restrooms which housed a pumping station for the well. The Grange and 4-H exhibits were housed in tents and the fair lasted three days.
When a tent blew down during the fair, the board members agreed more buildings were needed.
The Grange Building took shape in 1971. Also making its debut the same year was a horse show ring made of snow fencing.
But the snow fence proved inadequate, too, so a permanent ring was built. The ring was not an easy one to set. Post holes had to be jackhammered through solid rock. But the horse enthusiasts persevered and the Horse Show was held at its new site on the last day of the Fair in 1974.
1972 brought the 4-H building and sheep barn.
In 1973, the 4-H building was rented to the vo-Tech school under a 5-year lease. The school grew rapidly and more space was needed the following year. The Grange added their building to the Vo-Tech facilities on a 4-year rental basis.
In 1974, the Vo-Tech students broke ground for the construction of the Youth Center Building and the Horse Show Judges stand.
In 1975, the reviewing stand at the horse ring was dedicated to the late Jerry Webster who was instrumental in promoting the horse industry and bringing the horse show to the Tioga County Fair.
The Youth Center Building was completed in July of 1976, just in time for a wagon train, which was traveling from coast to coast in celebration of the bicentennial, to set up camp on the fairgrounds.
A track used for tractor pulls originally stood near the fair entrance. In 1977, it was relocated to the lower end of the fairgrounds. With the move, the track was enlarged and fenced in.
In 1978, the beef barn was constructed.
Through the years, the Tioga County Fair has had numerous television stars and celebrities entertain and attend special events on the fairgrounds. It is even responsible for a "first." Anne Clark was the first woman on the fairboard and was also the first woman elected to the Executive Board of Pennsylvania State Association of County Fairs in 1979. She was one of 25 board members that oversaw all 110 Pennsylvania County Fairs.