Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Delaware State Fair Fun

By Tiffany Amber Stockton

Last month, I shared an excerpt from chapter 1 of a new book I'm writing. If you missed that post, you can read it here: http://www.hhhistory.com/2017/12/sketches-in-calico-part-2.html.

Now, we're starting a new year and I'm looking forward to a new set of deadlines and books coming out. The first of 3 releasing this year is Magnolia Magic, and it's set in the little state of Delaware just prior to the annual state fair. I myself have never been to a state fair, but I hope to attend the one in Colorado this year with my kiddos. We almost made it last year and found amazing discounted tickets, but a last-minute incident made it impossible. The next best thing to attending is writing about them, right? So, here goes!

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Delaware State Fair Fun

I have proposed a few book ideas set in the lower two counties of Delaware, but every time I include things like the town of Magnolia or Peach Blossom trees, I receive a response that it sounds "too southern for such a northern state." Delaware is often confused with Rhode Island, which is located far up in New England, but it's actually south of Pennsylvania and New Jersey and east of Maryland, just above Virginia.

The lower part of the state is almost all farms and country living. Magnolia might lead some to think "southern," but the Peach Blossom Tree is Delaware's state flower, yet peaches are mostly associated with Georgia...a definite southern state. I decided to keep pushing forward, and now I'm finally able to see this story idea come to life! Persistence is the key.

My book is set primarily in the towns of Magnolia, Dover, and Harrington in Delaware. The main focus as I mentioned above is the state fair, and my lead characters are the Events Coordinator and Assistant Director of the fair. Both have lost loved ones to cancer, which has completely altered their lives. The fair is the catalyst which brings them together.

The first Delaware State Fair was held in Wilmington, with mentions of the "Delaware State Fair" being found in newspapers as far back as 1869. In 1878, the Delaware State Fair was moved to Fairview Park Fair Grounds in Dover and held in September.

In 1917, the state fair moved to Elsmere where the Delaware State Fair Association had purchased property and built a fairgrounds within the town limits. The fairgrounds included racetracks, agricultural exhibits, and stages for various entertainment acts.

The first fair on the current grounds was held in 1920 and was known as the Kent and Sussex County Fair. It lasted four days and was held on 30 acres. Today the fairgrounds encompass over 300 acres and feature concerts, wrestling, rodeo, races, agricultural exhibits, slot machines, a midway, and other typical stair fair demonstrations and events.

The Delaware State Fair began in a discussion around a potbelly stove in the Harrington railroad station in 1919. As word of the plan leaked out, the number who showed up to the meeting grew, and the railroad station was soon replaced by the fire hall. The drive of these ambitious men helped formulate the Kent and Sussex County Fair which was incorporated in January 1920.

The original purpose of the corporation was “to have or manage a fair or exposition for the purpose of promoting and encouraging Agriculture and of giving pleasures and diversions to the inhabitants of rural communities within the State of Delaware.”

On February 17, 1920, thirty acres were purchased for $6,000 and helped to formulate the layout of the track and grandstand. With plans for exhibits in seven categories, the first Fair opened on time on July 27, 1920 and continued for four days. Admission was 25 cents for children 6 to 12 and adult admission was 50 cents. Parking wasn’t free back then, as each vehicle was charged 25 cents. Through admission and ticket sales of events such as the “Big Motorcycle Race” and harness racing, the Fair achieved a net profit of $43.90. The profit and the attendees sharing they had a wonderful time prompted plans for the next year’s Fair with plans to make it “Bigger and Better Than Ever.” That became the slogan and it's lasted to this day.

Today, the Kent and Sussex County Fair is now known as the Delaware State Fair and boasts attendance of over 307,000. The nearly 300-acre fairground encompasses several businesses including The Centre Ice Rink which is open all winter and the Harrington Raceway and Casino. Despite the awesome trend of bringing dynamic entertainers and a thrilling carnival, the Fair maintains its roots in agriculture. And every year the Fair continues its tradition of being “Bigger and Better Than Ever.”

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* Have you ever been to a state fair? Which one(s) and when? Or how many times?

* Have you ever participated in a state fair? What did you do? Did you win any awards?

* Do you have a state fair where you live? How long has it been taking place?

* What did you like most about today's post?


Tiffany Amber Stockton has been crafting and embellishing stories since childhood, when she was accused of having a very active imagination and cited with talking entirely too much. Today, she has honed those childhood skills to become an author and speaker who works in the health & wellness and personal development industry, helping others become their best from the inside out. She is also an educational consultant with Usborne Books.

She lives with her husband and fellow author, Stuart Vaughn Stockton, in Colorado. They have one girl and one boy, and a Retriever mix named Roxie. She has sold twenty (21) books so far and is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of the Steve Laube Agency. You can find her on FacebookTwitterGoodReadsPinterest, and LinkedIn.


  1. Great post about the birth of Delaware State Fair. I attended the Illinois State Fair when I was younger. Our 4-H group was selected to perform our talent competition there. It was a lot of fun.

  2. I loved your post, Amber. I love to go to the state fair. Our fair, the Texas State Fair started in 1886 and has gone strong ever since except for periods during WWI and WWII. I was probably four years old the first time I went and have gone off and on now for fifty something years. I always feel like a kid again when I visit. I have also been to the state fair in Washington.

  3. We've been to the Vermont State Fair innumerable times; it's an annual tradition. We've not been to a Maine State Fair yet since we moved here, but have gone to several county fairs, which are primarily ag fairs.

  4. I have fond memories of being dropped off at the horse barns at the Illinois State Fair when I was a kid ... where I could revel in pretending I owned a horse. That was back in the day it was safe to do such things. Here in Nebraska, the state fair is a popular place every year. My kids and I have exhibited both in county fairs and the state fair ... quilts, craft projects, models, etc. Happy times. Great memories.

  5. I love State Fairs, and Texas has a great one, so I really enjoyed reading about another state and what they do their for a fair. I grew up in Dallas and went to the fair every year on Public School Day when we had a very reduced entrance fee and lots of free things to do. After I started teaching Home Ec, I took my FHA girls from Houston to Dallas to participate in the activities set aside for FFA, FHA and 4-H club days. We went without our parents and were perfectly safe all day. I was a baby when my mother took me to the centennial in !936 at the Fair and that was 81 years ago. I have a post planned about the Texas State Fair for next October. Like Melanie said, when I went a few years ago, I felt like that kid all over again and got excited about the exhibits. Hubby went along with everything I wanted to do, but teased me because he said I was like a kid with a new toy. :) Thanks for bringing back such wonderful memories.