Exhibit, book document Delaware State Fair history

A restored carousel horse is part of the exhibit at the Delaware Public Archives. (Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

As part of its centennial celebration, the Delaware State Fair has documented its history with a mission to spread the word and share the love.

Early this year the fair auctioned special license plates for Delaware vehicles. It released a book by author robin brown, produced a video and hailed the opening of an exhibit at the Delaware Public Archives.

The coffee-table book, “Treasured Tradition,” is available through Amazon. A 50-minute video storybook, featuring more than 47 individuals telling of their interactions with the fair, is broken up into seven sections detailing the fair’s history, entertainment, livestock, exhibits, contests, 4-H and FFA connections, carnival, traditions like camping and shopping, and, of course, the people that make the fair a success each year.

This spring, the Delaware Public Archives in Dover opened the exhibition called “The Delaware State Fair: A Century of Family Fun.”

The exhibition is a collaboration between the Delaware Public Archives and the Delaware State Fair and highlights artifacts, historical documents and photographs related to the 100 years of fair operations in the First State.

Delaware State Fair artifacts on display at the Delaware Public Archives. (Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

Fittingly, visitors to the opening of the state fair exhibition were presented with fans upon entering the Public Archives building on Tuesday – an homage to the hot, sticky weather that routinely greets guests at the Delaware State Fairgrounds each July.

They were also given a booklet from the first annual Kent and Sussex County Fair, which the event was known as until it officially became the Delaware State Fair in 1962.

The reproduced booklet featured categories such as horse racing, motorcycle races, poultry, cattle, vegetable garden exhibits, culinary treats and more. There was one stipulation — any of the food products in competitions had to be homemade.

Stephen M. Marz, director and state archivist for the Delaware Public Archives, said it was nice that the archives were able to recognize a happy event that takes place in the state every year.

“We’re here to celebrate an event that makes us glad that we call Delaware our home,” Mr. Marz said. “We’re going to unveil an exhibition that celebrates the 100th anniversary of what has become known as the Delaware State Fair.

“We have historical photos, we have documents, we have artifacts that tell the story of those 100 years, and on display you’ll be able to see them, and I hope you are able to review a memory and certainly a smile.”

The exhibit, free to visitors, sits just inside the main entrance to the Delaware Public Archives building at 121 Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

It features items such as a carousel horse, coins from the 50th anniversary of the fair in 1969, buttons, a myriad of photos of families and animals, exhibitor signs, award ribbons of several different colors, a judge’s gavel, old-time ticket reel, a hand-operated switchboard from the early 1900s, an autographed guitar from all of the musicians who played at the fair in 2011 and several other items.

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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