1853—Stephenson County Agricultural Society formed

1854—The first county fair held in Stephenson County took place on October 4, 1854, organized by the Stephenson County Agricultural Society.  It was held in a pasture near the Halderman Steam Flouring Mill southwest of Freeport.  (Block between Locust, Blackhawk, Beaver, and Avon Streets) The livestock show, machinery exhibit and a plowing match were part of the events in this pasture.  Vegetables, fruits, textiles, baked goods, floral, and culinary were exhibited at the courthouse.  Fun Fact:  Luman Montique entered 75 varieties of apples and won first place.

1855—Five acres were leased for a permanent fairground from Dexter Knowlton.  It was located south of Lincoln Avenue between West Avenue and the City Cemetery.  The total cost was $125.

1859—The 7th annual Illinois State Fair was held in Freeport on September 5-9, 1859.  The location is unknown; however, fifty acres of land was rented for $1,000 and was a half a mile south of the city.  $16,000 was offered in premium money and the fair was very well attended.  One of the major attractions of this state fair was the steam plow competition.  A three thousand dollar first premium and a two-thousand-dollar second premium was offered as prize money for the best steam engine suitable for plowing and other farm work.

1861—The American Civil War began in 1861, the fairgrounds were used as a camp.  It was called Camp Scott.  Buildings were converted to officer quarters and stalls became sleeping quarters for the soldiers.  Army training drills took place daily and soldiers were sent to Camp Butler, in Springfield when they were ready.  The county fair was canceled in 1862 and 1864.

1867—After the Stephenson County Agricultural Societies lease expired in 1867, the society purchased 30 acres located north of South Street between Locust, Walnut, and Dewey Avenues.  The society moved most of the buildings from their old fairgrounds to the new grounds and installed a half mile circular track for horse competitions. 

1877-1878—The Illinois State Fair was again held in Freeport in 1877 and 1878 and was held east of town at Taylor’s Driving Park (nka Taylor Park) as there was adequate space and accommodations.  Approximately 80,000 people enjoyed the fair in 1877, it rained during the 1878 fair, so attendance was down that year.  John B. Taylor owned the driving park.

1879—The Stephenson County Agricultural Society held its last fair in 1879.  The fair started on a good note, but the weather was the fair’s worse enemy.  It rained most of the days of the fair with two thunderstorms destroying tents. Attendance was low, the society was $2,000 in debt, and they could not pay out the premium money.  They went bankrupt and the 30 acres was sold.

1888—The Northern Illinois Agricultural Association was organized in 1888 and county fairs were held again in Stephenson County.  These fairs were held at Taylor’s Driving Park (nka Taylor Park).  

1900—The first night fair is held.  Everyone exited the park late in the afternoon and it cost ten cents to enter the fairgrounds near night fall.  Mr. Taylor strung lights throughout the walkways and in all the buildings.  When it was almost dark the lights were turned on and music was played.

1909—John B. Taylor is hurt after a horse and buggy accident on April 23, 1909.  He dies on April 26, 1909.

1910—Fair held September 7-10.  “Roosevelt Day” (September 8, 1910) at the county fair.  President Theodore Roosevelt was traveling to different parts of Illinois to raise money for a retirement home for retired and disabled railroad men located in Highland Park, Illinois.  Thirty thousand people were in attendance that day and $2,000 was raised.

1911—One more fair was held in 1911, after that the park was sold to the newly formed Freeport Park District for $43,500.  

1918—Farm Bureau is formed and holds annual picnics at Taylor Park.

1922—4-H clubs are formed, and projects are judged at the Farm Bureau annual picnics

1923—Ladies’ Home Bureau is organized, and units were formed in 1928 in the different townships.

1940—A county fair was not officially held again until 1940 when the Farm Bureau, 4-H, Ladies’ Home Bureau, and the Chamber of Commerce joined together and created the Stephenson County Community Fair Association.  The fairs are held at Taylor Park.

1949—The fair is postponed because of the polio epidemic.  The fair was then held on Oct 3-5 that year.

1951—The 1951 county fair was canceled due to effects from flooding.  Several inches of rain had caused flooding in Taylor Park and the ground did not dry out in time to put up tents or carnival rides.  Parking would not have been possible due to all of the mud.  The livestock judging took place at Woodlane Park in Cedarville, Illinois. 

1951—Our current fairgrounds were purchased in December of 1951.  Thirty acres were purchased from Albert & Henry Albertus and they donated ten acres for naming rights.  The parks official name is Albertus Park, home of the Stephenson County Fair.  

1952—The first fair held on the new fairgrounds took place in August 1952.  The Home Ec building was the only structure built at the time.

1953—The first commercial building was built in time for the 1953 fair.

1961—The Home Ec Dining Hall was built and served breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

1965—High winds hit the fairgrounds on Friday, August 27 at around 9:45 p.m.  Around 22,500 were on the grounds sometime during the day.  Waves of wind and rain swept through the grounds whipping tents, damaging rides, and causing lots of damage.  A huge crowd had been in the grandstand but made it to safety in the permanent buildings.  The only tent housing animals was for the ponies.  None of them were hurt.  Several small rides and the Ferris wheel frame were damaged.  Six people were hurt on the octopus and were taken to the hospital.  The were released soon after.

1968—The current grandstands were built in 1968 at a cost of $50,814.

2022 marked the 70th anniversary of the Stephenson County Fair finding its home at Albertus Park in South Freeport! Check out this remarkable newspaper from the 1952 fair!

Check back for a updates to our history of the Fairgrounds. Until then, enjoy this video!