"The Ossipee Valley Fair" opened its gates for the first time on July 10, 1980. That year, it was popularly referred to as the "miracle fair." Our land was purchased in the spring of 1980, touching off a remarkable mad dash to clear brush, lay out roadways and erect enough buildings to form the nucleus of a fairground. Most years we still have that "mad dash" feeling as fair time approaches - so little time - so much to do! Nevertheless, it's important to pause once in a while to reflect on how we got hee-ah from they-ah. On May 7, 1977, a group of 24 local citizens signed a charter organizing the Ossipee Valley Agricultural Society (OVAS). They had been inspired by the revival of the Cornish Fair for the town's bicentennial in 1976. The purpose of the Society is "to instruct the people of the Ossipee River Valley in the State of Maine on agricultural matters and other concerns of rural living by holding public fairs, demonstrations, and exhibitions of livestock, poultry, farm produce, rural arts and crafts, and rural industry."
OVAS continued to operate the Cornish Fair on its historic fairgrounds through 1979. As the need for space increased, an alternative site was acquired on nearby South Hiram Road. That first fair on the new land was a very dusty affair - and we still grow rocks as well as we grow anything else - but we've observed marked and steady improvement on these grounds in the subsequent 25 years! More to the point, Ossipee Valley Fair continues to be a place where the rich traditions of farming and rural life are celebrated and honored. For four days each July, the fair is a non-stop beehive of activity - 4-H events, horse and cattle pulling, musical entertainment, an exciting and colorful midway, a myriad of tasty foods, games, goats, sheep, rabbits, cows, chickens, pigs, steers and oxen - even 4X4 racing for the gear-heads among us! Most of all, an agricultural fair is "good folks." We are an all-volunteer endeavor - and we have great volunteers! As we salute the spirit and foresight of the Society's Charter Members, we also acknowledge the creativity and energy of today's members - carrying us forward to bigger and better things at "The Friendliest of Fairs" - Ossipee Valley Fair.
HISTORY OF THE CORNISH FAIRGROUNDS In 1876, the first fair association was formed in Cornish to promote and display the produce and trade goods of the area. One of the most influential founders of the association was B. Franklin Pease, great grandfather of Royden and Rebecca Pease and Helen Bradeen. He also founded the Grange in Cornish the year before. Little is recorded of the early years of the Ossipee Valley Union Agricultural Assoc., but its success by the turn of the century saw the complete rebuilding of the fairgrounds and racetrack to allow for growing expansion. It was during the rebuilding that the grandstand was erected and an innovative concrete subway was constructed underneath the racetrack for the safety and convenience of the fair patrons. It was not until 65-70 years later that major tracks adopted a similar safety feature. The racetrack was known as one of the finest driving parks in New England harness racing due to its excellent surface and professionally engineered banked turns, which were almost unheard of in Maine. Over the years, many nationally famous horses and drivers raced at the Cornish race track. By 1914, renamed the Cornish Agricultural Assoc., the fair became one of the state's most important annual events. On the second day of the fair in 1914, over 8,000 people were admitted to the grounds with almost 500 cars parked in the infield of the racetrack. For the next 35 years, the fair prospered and grew. The Maine Central Railroad made special arrangements for the transportation of livestock and exhibits as well as people coming to attend the fair. After the Second World War, most of the active members of the association had died, and due to lack of supportive interest, the death of the Cornish Annual Fair was nearing. Since 1952, fairground activity was limited to only the training of horses. The old judges' stand was repaired and is now one of the last surviving examples of its type of construction still standing. Under the direction of the town bicentennial committee during 1976, the Cornish Fair was revived and held at the fairgrounds by permission of the owners, the DiBiaso family. Local enthusiasm grew so strong that a non-profit organization, the Ossipee Valley Agricultural Society (OVAS) was formed to continue the Cornish Fair as a community annual event, and the work on the new fairgrounds in Hiram began.
An excerpt from the first premium book bearing the name "Ossipee Valley Fair" - 1980:
1980 AND THE MIRACLE FAIR This year's edition of the "Ossipee Valley Fair" lately "The Cornish Fair," has occasionally been referred to in jest as "The Miracle Fair," during those half serious moments when we knew it was impossible to have a fair this year. The acquisition of the new grounds, the development of these grounds, and the other "normal" preparations that go into getting our act together to open on time are not small accomplishments. They do add up to a miracle. It all happened because of the hard work and money of the people listed below. Without their help there would have been no fairgrounds, no fair, and this book would never have gone to press. While recognizing their contributions in this small way, we look forward to doing more, better, next year, with the involvement of more of the fine people from our extensive community.