Ken Gottry - Cambridge NY History

The Lauderdale Fair started around 1883 on the O.C. Valentine farm at the southern end of Lake Lauderdale. Later this was the location of Corey’s Cabins and in the 1960s the Club 22 restaurant and bar.

In 1888 Jerome B. Rice helped form the Cambridge Valley Agricultural Society, purchase the Lauderdale Fair, and move it to the north edge of the village. The fairgrounds were located on the east side of North Park Street between Jerome Drive and the railroad tracks. (check Google Earth, the track is still visible) 

Part14 034 Fair HorseRace

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The Great Cambridge Fair opened in 1890 for 5 days and 6 nights. The Delaware & Hudson, the Fitchburg, and the Greenwich & Johnsonville each added extra trains just to handle the traffic to the fair.

From Whitehall you’d take the D&H to Castleton, VT, down through Granville, and Salem to Cambridge. From Fort Edward you’d take the Fitchburg Line to Mechanicville, east to Eagle Bridge, and north on the D&H to Cambridge. From Greenwich you’d board the G&J to Johnsonville (we old-timers still call County Route 74 the Railroad), then the Fitchburg east to Eagle Bridge, and the D&H north to Cambridge. The $2.70 train ticket included admission to the fair.

The initial grandstand seated 2,500 and faced north toward the half-mile horse racing track. By 1893 the fair had grown in popularity and the grandstand had to be moved back from the track and increased to 3,300 seats. The fair rented the track to Cambridge High School which held its track meets there.

Crowds of 30,000 to 40,000 were common at the fair in the 1900’s. Admission to the fair was 25 cents with a reserved seat in the grandstand costing $1.50, and a box seat $3. There were five multi-heat horse races each day with purses of $300. The stables housed 200 horses. On Saturday J.B. Rice launched the races by riding in front of the grandstand in his surrey.

Along the midway there were side shows, games, fortune tellers, eating places, souvenir stands, merry-go-round, and a Ferris wheel. The exhibit halls held fruit, vegetables, needlework, preserves, and baked goods. At one point the fair was the largest poultry show in the country.

The buildings on Implement Avenue were occupied by farm supply companies, such as M.W. Moseley of Eagle Bridge, H.H. Lovejoy of Cambridge, and Eddy Plows of Greenwich. Department stores, such as Frears from Troy, rented buildings to sell their wares.

In 1899 J.B. Rice paid $3,000 to bring the first automobile to the fair. In 1902 the track hosted the first automobile race in this part of the country. Many of the cars were electric.

In 1908 the famous Stroebel Airship appeared at the fair, a year after winning first prize in the International Race in St Louis.

In 1911 Glenn Curtiss flew his aeroplane over the fairgrounds throughout the Saturday events. Earlier that year Curtiss had received U.S. Pilot License #1 (the first batch of pilot licenses were issued alphabetically and Wilbur Wright received #5). In 1907, Curtiss teamed with Alexander Graham Bell to form the Aerial Experimental Association and later the Curtiss Aeroplane Company

For the first ten years, the fair was launched with a floral parade on Main Street. This tradition was revived in 1938 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the formation of the Ag Society.

In 1927 the fair was not held as the association fell into bankruptcy. Frank Lake purchased the fair for $16,000 and re-opened it in 1928. He added electricity to the fairgrounds in 1929.

The last year of the Cambridge fair was 1943. Following World War II, the fair was moved to Greenwich at the intersection of Route 29 and 40. In 1960 the fair moved westward to its present location as the Washington County Fair.

Following World War II, the grandstand was disassembled and shipped to Florida. Alas, it was never reassembled and it rotted away in a field. As part of the Bicentennial celebration in 1976, the gazebo was moved from the fairgrounds to the school grounds. In 2012 the gazebo was moved to the library lawn.

Click Cambridge Fair Photos to see more photos from the Cambridge Fair collection