Since October 15, 1873, the smells
and sounds of fair time have symbolized the beginning of fall in
Caledonia. The first fair was held on Edinburgh Square. Five years later,
on July 17, 1878, the Caledonia Agricultural and Arts Society purchased
the present fairgrounds, well-located within the town, from the Dominion
Government for two-hundred and fifty dollars. That year there was a
two-day fair held on October 166 and 17.
Fairs in the old county of Haldimand
were held many years before 1873 when they were sponsored by the Niagara
District Agricultural Society, founded in 1832. The Haldimand Agricultural
Society was formed in 1843 when the first grant of five pounds came from
the Governor General.
The villages of Seneca and Oneida,
Seneca to the east and Oneida to the west of Caledonia, both held fairs
alternating years and in 1854 the Seneca and Oneida Agricultural Society
was thriving, according to earliest records. It had 218 members and a bank
balance of fifty pounds.
1873, the Caledonia
Agricultural and Arts Society held its first meeting in the Town Hall when
a board of thirty-two directors was established. Captain Hugh Stewart was
President, Robert Shirra was secretary and Robert Hudspeth held the
position of treasurer.
Queen Victoria’s sixty-year reign
was celebrated in 1867 at the Caledonia Fair. That year, log-sawing
contests and three bicycle races were staged. Even a heaviest baby contest
limited to infants under 18 months old was held. However, this contest was
protested by a Mrs. Patterson who won the appeal.
In 1907, a total of 11,400 people
registered at what they called the Great Fair when there was a gathering
of Haldimand "old boys and girls". Special trains were run from all
directions for Caledonia Fair and as many as twenty-thousand paid
admission during some of those years.
Women Directors were invited to participate and attend
the Annual Banquet of the Society in 1913. These annual functions were
held in February during full moon so out-of-town members could see their
There were 16,000 people who paid
admission in 1913. According to a report from the local daily, The
Hamilton Spectator, quoted in the Grand River Sachem, it took
from 5:30 p.m. Saturday when the grounds were vacated until close to
midnight to transport everyone on the Caledonia railway station platform.
Trains coming in and departing Caledonia for Hamilton were loaded two or
three times before the last three hundred boarded an extra run at 11:00
It was also in July 1913 when Joseph
Hudspeth, one of the oldest directors of the Caledonia Agricultural
Society, was presented with a cane by the society. Mr. Hudspeth had not
been well for some time and his fellow directors decided some support to
keep mobile. Joseph Hudspeth died August 13, 1913.
By 1928 a three-day fair was held, but the polio
epidemic in 1937 was reason enough to cancel that year’s fair, the only
year when a fall fair was not held in Caledonia.
Over the years Caledonia Fair has
grown with the times. Excitement fills the air for young and old alike as
much today as it did in 1873. Held in the last weekend of September on the
beautifully kept fair grounds along the banks of the Grand River, the Fair
continues to attract thousands of people. For many years the Caledonia
Fair’s exhibit hall has been proudly recognized as one of the best in the
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