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. The livestock show, machinery exhibit and a plowing match were part of the events here. Vegetables, fruits, textiles, baked goods, floral, and culinary were exhibited at the courthouse.
The following year, 1855, five acres was leased for a permanent fairground from Dexter Knowlton. It was located south of Lincoln Avenue between West Avenue and the City Cemetery.
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.
The American Civil War began in 1861, the fairgrounds were used as a camp. Buildings were converted to officer quarters and stalls became sleeping quarters for the soldiers. Army training drills took place daily and soldiers were sent onto Camp Butler, in Springfield when they were ready. The county fair was canceled in 1862 and 1864.
After the Stephenson County Agricultural Societies lease expired in 1867, the society purchased 30 acres located north of South Street between Locust and Walnut Avenues. The society moved most of their buildings from their old fairgrounds to the new grounds and installed a half mile circular track for horse competitions.
The Illinois State Fair was again held in Freeport in 1877 and 1878 and was held east of town at Taylor’s Driving 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.
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.
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). John B. Taylor owned the park. He dies in 1909.
“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.
Fairs were held until 1911 when the park was sold to the newly formed Freeport Park District.
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 they help the 4-H clubs.
A county fair was not officially held again until 1940 when the Farm Bureau, 4-H, Ladies’ Home Bureau, and the Chamber of Commerce join together and create the Stephenson County Community Fair Association. The fairs are held at Taylor Park.
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.
Our current fairgrounds was purchased in December of 1951. Thirty acres were purchased from Albert & Henry Albertus and they donated ten acres for naming rights. So the park is called Albertus Park, home of the Stephenson County Fair.
The first fair held on the new fairgrounds took place in 1952. The Home Ec building was the only structure built at the time.
The large commercial building was built in time for the 1953 fair.
The current grandstands were built in 1868.
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 written history of the Fairgrounds. Until then, enjoy this video!