History of the Fair

History of the Kenton County Fair

As recorded by: Bob Maddox

October 2018

                When I came to Kenton county as a 4-H club agent in March of 1960, I learned there was no county fair.  I grew up as a 4-H member in Boone County and thought that every county had a county fair.  I was shocked to only find a 4-H fair.  Our 4-H fair in 1960 had 255 4-H exhibits and were judged starting at 8am and everything was over by 4pm, clean up and all.  State fair entries for 1960 totaled 40 in all.  As we were leaving the fairgrounds, walking up the drive to where we parked, we met a family of six coming to the fair.  It was Cecil and Loretta Cummins and their four children, Mary, Kay, Eddie and Tommy.  They became a very active as a 4-H family in 1961 and 1962.

                I received a call from Cecil Cummins, while doing the milking that morning.  He heard on WHAS that the Kentucky Department of Agriculture was staring a program to help county fairs in the state.  There was to be a meeting in Owenton to explain the program.  The county fair promotion meeting was going to be held, along with a beef cattle meeting, at the Owen County Rural Electric office in Owenton. 

                Tom Riley had recently resigned as county agent in order to pursue his doctorate degree at the University of Chicago, Bob Maddox was appointed interim county agent as well as being the 4-H agent.  A group of 14 men went to the beef meeting and stayed for the county fair promotion meeting.  We learned that the Department of Agriculture would match premium dollars for a fair up to $2000, per county, for livestock, home economics and 4-H and FFA projects.  A week later, some of the cattlemen, a group of 4-H leaders, and representatives from listed clubs and groups, met at the Independence Courthouse and elected officers for the Kenton County Fair Association.  The 4-H leaders donated the money to cover incorporation filing fees.  A committee was appointed to prepare by-laws for the association. 

                4-H agents Ruth Marcum and Robert Maddox sent letters to every non-profit organization in Kenton County, with information about starting a county fair.  A response was received from the Erlanger Ladies Club, they sent us Mrs. Stella Klein, to be their representative.  Erlanger Lions Club sent Roy Klein from Cincinnati Bell.  Kenton County Ministerial Association sent Reverent Lester Alexandria.  Covington Kiwanis Club Representative was Paul Vogelpohl from Covington Paint, who was also the 4-H leader at Saint Cecilia.  Kenton County Homemakers representative was Mrs. Stanly Parker (wife of Owen County Recreational Director).  Russell Rector was the Kenton County Livestock Association Representative and Glen Riggs was the Kenton County Farm Bureau Representative. 

                We continued having the fair at the Simon Kenton High School bus garage and showed the cattle and horses in the grassy area adjoining the bus garage.  We stayed at Simon Kenton until we were able to buy the first property from the school board in 1969.  It was located behind White’s Tower School. 

The 4-H leaders at the time were:  Gilmore Eckerle, Paul Vogelpohl, James and Matelda Richardson, Lloyd Bridges, Cecil and Loretta Cummins, Mrs. Raymond Lafollette, Mel and Florence Strain, Carl and Helen Garlough, George and Laveane Wolsing, Mrs. Vogelpohl, Mrs. Eggelston, Julia Wichlund, Bonita Maddox, Mrs. Heger, Ulla Grizzel, Mrs. Lawler, Bernard and Alice Budke, Mrs. Olie Smith, Bonnie Smith, Bruce Clark, James Walters, Mrs. Steinhauser, Mrs. Lunsford, Mrs. Donald Riddell, Mrs. Shaler Marshall and Mrs. Bluch Rich.  Our school 4-H clubs had the cooperation of the principals:  Mr. Edward Requardt (Ryland Elementary), Mr. F.D. Caton (Kenton Elementary), Mr. Edgar Baker (Taylor Mill Elementary), Mr. William R. Brown (Piner Elementary) and Mrs. Steinhouser (Visalia Elementary).  The electric project leaders were trained by Dale Bee and Ralph Windle of the Cincinnati Gas and Electric Company, along with Dorothy Nanny of Owen County Rural Electric Cooperative.  These three individuals also served as judges for the electric projects. 

Adults who were too old to be 4-H members, became members of the Utopia Club.  The members at that time were:  Robert and Laurne Scott, John and Mary Tewes, Herb and Wanda Works, Les and Marcella Fields, Franklin and Bert Kidwell, Bud and Dorthy Barnes, Charlie and Dorthia Cummins, George and Laverne Wolsing, George and Reva Finnell, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Brown, and William E and Virginia Durr. 

In 1962, the number of 4-H fair entries was 505, the state fair entries were 55, and there were 2 judging teams.  In 1963, the Kenton County Fair Association started with a board of 12 members:  Gilmore Eckerle (president), Cecil Cummins (vice president), Laverne Wolsing (secretary), Robert Maddox (treasurer), Russel Rector (livestock association), Glen Riggs (Farm Burea), Roy Klein (Erlanger Lions Club), Lester Alexander (Ministerial Association), Mrs. Stanley Parker (Kenton County Homemakers), Helen Garlough (4-H Leader), Carl Garlough (4-H Leader), and Stanley Bird (4-H Leader).  In 1964, Rober Barnes, vocational agricultural teacher, was added.  During this year, our president, Gil Eckerle died and Cecil Cummins stepped in to run the fair.  In 1965, Cecil was elected President, William E. Durr was elected vice president, and Mrs. Stanley Parker was elected as secretary.  During this same year, Mrs. Donald Riddell was added as a board member as well as John Gray (vocational agriculture teacher).  In 1966, Lloyd Bridges was added to the Board.  In 1967, Ray Morgan because 4-H agent.

 In 1968, Charles Casey was elected to the board and to serve as vice president.  Ruth Marcum came back to the board and was elected secretary.  George Dawking was the representative for the Farm Burea and J.R. Ballad represented the Livestock Association.  This was the year of the first tractor pull.  Warren Richardson won the light weight pull.  Heavy weight tractor competitors were: Bud Menefee (Massey) and Mark Helmer (John Deere).

In 1969, we purchased 11.23 acres from the Kenton County School Board.  We were given a trailer to use as our office.  In 1970, Hoover Patric was hired to build the 4-H building, the north east corner was used as the kitchen.  Gobel Armstrong was added to the board.  We built the first pole barn and the first restroom (8’ by 16’) building below the office. 

In 1971, James Kannady and Harold Bray were added to the board.  Franklin Kidwell was elected as the Farm Bureau Representative.  Gertrude Paproita was the new home economics agent. 

In 1972, we built the pavilion with a stage and dressing room.

In 1973, Diana Schneider came in as the 4-H agent.

In 1974, Ben Heeger and Matilda Richardson joined the board.  Stanley Bird was elected as vice president and Ben Heeger was elected as assistant to the president.  This year the second pole barn was added.

In 1975, We did Phase I of the grand stand at the horse arena.  Phase II of the grand stand was completed in 1976.  That same year, Curtis Cooper was elected as a director and Warren Vanhorn was selected to represent the Farm Bureau.

In 1977, Gary Kelly and Ron Coleman were elected to the board.  Doug Watson became the vocational agriculture teacher.  We built a fair office with two rooms.  There was a scale built for the pit at the track and the scale was donated by R.C. Durr.

In 1978, We bought an additional 3.132 acres from the Board of Education.  Wally Gentry was elected as president, Ron Coleman as vice president, and Matilda Richardson as secretary. 

In 1979, Renado Burden was elected as a director.

In 1980, Bonnie Smith was elected as a director.  Bonnie ran the kitchen at the fair for many years.

In 1981, we built the scale room.

In 1982, new concrete was put in the scale house.  The same year, Diana Damashko became the Home Economics agent.

In 1983, Floral hall was built (McIntosh), electric was run for Floral Hall (Webster), and William E. Durr was elected as a director.

In 1984, the kitchen was built (McIntosh).  In the same year, Dexter Lafollette and Buddy Rich were elected as directors.

In 1985, the bleacher boards were covered with aluminum and repairs were completed to the 4-H building.  William E. Durr was elected as vice president of the board.

In 1986, The horse arena was fenced in and the following were elected as directors:  Ray Williams, Bud Wills, Renate Burden, Bill Eddens, Milton Mains, Shelby Mason and Scott Parker.

In 1987, the ticket booths were built and Dexter Lafollette was elected as vice president.  The directors nominated so serve on the board were: Harry Armstrong, Jackie Gentry, and Walter Gentry.

In 1988, Larry Maxey was elected as the representative from the Livestock Association.  There were two rooms added to the office and metal gates were purchased.  Milton Mains was nominated as vice president.

In 1989, we were awarded “Most Progressive Fair in Kentucky”.  William E Durr was elected as president and Milton Mains remained as vice president. Jeff Simpson was nominated as a director.  The grounds were hooked into city water and the new restroom was built.  This was also the beginning of the Sale of Champions as it is now.

In 1990, Edie Lafollette, John Loveless, Art Darnell, and Debbie Wills were elected as directors.  The livestock pavilion was built in this year. 

In 1991, Bobby Tanner and Jeff Woods were added as directors.  There were 4 additional stalls added on to the women’s side of the restroom.  The judge’s stand was added to the livestock pavilion.  Ed and Jeri Zimmer and Brian Duncan joined the board.

In 1992, the fence was placed around the fair grounds.  Milton Mains was president and Bud Wills was vice president.  The following were new board members:  Connie Tanner, Sandy Loveless, Linda Eddins, Millie Parker, and Milly and Ken James.

In 1993, the kitchen was added (McIntosh Construction).  Dan Allen, Jenisha Jenkins, Nancy Kloentrup, and Genita Kiser were added as board members.  William E Durr received the “Fairman of the Year” award from the Kentucky Fair Association.

In 1994, there was work completed on the livestock barn stalls.

In 1995, Kenneth James was the vice president, Rita Funke was added as a director, and the following were added as board members:  Clara Ussery, Steve Spencer, Tom Felen, and Lyle Burns.  A shed was built on the side of the livestock pavilion and the petting zoo shed was built.  Champion point was constructed and fencing was added along the back of the fairgrounds.

In 1996, the following were added as new board members:  Lloyd Spegal, Gary Spegal, Tina Snelling, Kevin Beighle, and Debra Landrum.

In 1998, Shannon Black and Tina Snelling were elected as directors.  The 2 pole barns were joined together and a new roof was put over them, making it better for livestock shows.  This year, the first computer program was purchased to help organize fair entries and premiums.

In 1999, the first computer and a check printer were purchased.  Mills Fence added additional fencing.  The following purchases were made:  cattle and hog gates, portable cattle scale, J079 tractor, timer for the horse ring, and a golf cart.  The electric was also upgraded at the fair grounds.

In 2000, additional restrooms were added, computer software and portable bleachers were purchased.

In 2001, the Harris road gate was blacktopped, champion point construction was completed, the kitchen ceiling was repaired/completed, and a mower and freezer were purchased.

In 2002, a refrigerator and grille were purchased for the kitchen.  Improvements were completed to the Floral Hall. 

In 2003, computer software, a zero turn mower and gates were purchased.

In 2004, the roof of the 4-H building was replaced, there were upgrades completed to the Floral Hall, and a water tank was purchased.

In 2005, the booth area was blacktopped and gutters were added to the pavilion.

In 2006, kitchen cooling fans were added, electric was upgraded, fill dirt/stone was added to the pit area, the 4-H building received new siding, a S325 tractor was purchased.  A bull riding event was added to the fair that year.

In 2007, a batwing mower was purchased as well as a deep freeze for the kitchen.  A reveal was purchased for the horse ring and blacktop was sealed.  Cap Kiser was elected to the board.

In 2008, the following items were purchased and/or installed:  freezer, scale for the track, tiller, fencing, and sewer lines.  Mike Wilson was elected as a director.

In 2009 and 2010, we continued to lease a tiller.  In 2010, Kara Adkins was elected as a director. 

In 2011, new windows were installed in the 4-H building, new electric was added underground, fencing was added in the barn areas and legal fees were paid to achieve tax exempt status.

In 2012, the William E Durr Exhibit Hall was built.

In 2013, additional fencing was added, additional black top was added, portable bleachers and a refrigerator were purchased for the grounds.

In 2014, a deep freeze and deep fryer were purchased and added to the kitchen.  The black top was sealed and the electric was revised.  A new phone system was purchased. Connie Wilson was elected as a director. 

In 2016, Kevin McCarty and Kevin Stamper were elected as directors.  The blacktop was sealed, an informational gazebo was purchased, a cordless microphone was purchased and new lights were installed in the 4-H building.

In 2017, Larry Mains and Brandon Williams were elected as directors.  There was an electrical breaker upgrade and several wet areas of the fairgrounds were filled with additional gravel and rock.

In 2018, the horse show judge’s stand was replaced, the pageant area and stage was reworked, the horse arena and livestock barn fencing was repaired, replaced, and painted.  The Durr building had carpet added to the indoor educational area and signs were added to the outside of both entrances.