Haddam Neck Fair History
The origin of the Haddam Neck Fair can be attributed to the Haddam Neck Grange No. 177 P.of H., which was organized in 1909.The local grange was an active community organization in the early 20th century which focused on agricultural practices, community service and local improvements. At that time most of the Haddam Neck men were farmers and nearly every household had a substantial garden and farm animals.
The Haddam Neck Grange held a small fair in Bailey’s Field ( near the East Hampton town line) in 1910.It must have been successful because in April 1911 the Haddam Neck Grange Agricultural Association was formed. In mid August they purchased three acres of land along what is now Quarry Hill Road from farmer Anson Strong to hold the event. By Labor Day volunteers had almost completed the new 33’x45’ Grange Hall which was used for displays on the upper floor and dinner on the first floor. Today the building is the centerpiece of the fairgrounds. It was estimated that 1500 people attended the 1911 Fair
Between 1912 and 1921 the fair continued to thrive and many improvements were made to the grounds. However in early 1922 a dispute among stockholders had escalated and due to the trouble the fair was not held in 1922, 1923 or 1924.
In the fall of 1924 John L. Kruger, a summer resident, purchased the property at auction and a few weeks later a group of “civic-minded citizens” reorganized a new Haddam Neck Fair Association.
Under new management, the Fair became a successful enterprise. The Grange Hall was renovated and electric lights were installed in 1925. In the 1930’s and 1940’s the Fair continued to grow with agricultural contests,the baby show, live entertainment , horse show and athletic events. In 1941 5,000 people attended the fair. Due to WWII no fairs were held in 1942, 1943 and 1944, although meetings were held and business transacted.
The fair resumed operation in 1945 and new attractions were added including kiddie rides, displays of farm equipment and automobiles. The Fair became a two day event in 1957 and fair attendance had risen to 10,000. Changes were taking place as the number of farmers decreased but the fair prospered with improvements to the grounds and the addition of new attractions
In 1981 the fair was extended to three days and Country Western bands were added as well as tractor pull competitions. The Haddam Neck Fair celebrated its 75th anniversary in 1986 and the Haddam Neck Fair Road Race became a new feature.
The 1990’s a new cattle barn was erected in the back of the fairgrounds and the Haddam Neck Products Booth was started. In 2001 the Fair opened for three and a half days, starting Friday night featuring the Street Stock Truck Pull.event. In 2006 the Fair suffered two fires which destroyed the historic rabbit shed and a announcer’s booth. These buildings were replaced and in 2007 a pole barn to house sheep and goats was built as well as a new Scale House to honor John Hall, a long time fair supporter and volunteer.
The Haddam Neck Fair is rated as a Major Agricultural Fair by the State of Connecticut and continues to operate successfully due in large part to the many volunteers whose hard work maintains its agricultural tradition.