Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.
Albion Recorder, August 17, 1998 pg. 4
We congratulate the Calhoun County Fair being held this week in Marshall on their 150th anniversary. Many Albionites participate in various ways in our County Fair, and rightfully so. But did you know that Albion once had its own fair and fairgrounds for its own citizens?
Back in the early 1890s the private racetrack and stands of deputy Sheriff Williard Warner near N. Superior and E. North Streets was closed, and the land developed into housing tracts. That is why there is a "jog" on North Street at Clinton today at that point. This left Albion without a racetrack, a popular sport in that day.
A new racetrack and fairgrounds was built in 1893-1894 on the west side of Haven Road (across the street from present-day Victory Park) between it and Riverside Cemetery. Today there is a private "Fair Lane" which attests to that fact. The racetrack was located behind where the new houses are today, and a grandstands was erected there in 1893.
This was a full-fledged fair, held in either September or October of each year during the 1890s and early 1900s. The first fair was held in 1894. It featured a large variety of departments in which to compete: cattle, horses, sheep, swine, poultry, apiary (bees), fruit, vegetables, grain, farm implements, mechanical work, domestic manufacturer, household products, flowers, and fine arts.
In addition to the main grandstand along the racetrack, there was a floral hall, horse stalls, and other buildings. Monetary awards were given to the prize-winning entries. For example, a first class award for a Durham bull 3 years old and older was $3.00. Second prize was $2.00. In the vegetable division, a first place winner watermelon raked in 55¢, while a Boston Marrow squash could bring 35¢ to the first place winner.
Program booklets for the fair were printed by the Recorder Press. The fair was operated by the Albion Fair and Driving Park Association, which annually elected officers and appointed chairpeople for each department. For example, the roster of 1898 officials included: President, E. C. Lester; Vice-president, Frank F. Hoaglin; Treasurer, John G. Brown; Secretary, Arza L. McCutcheon; Rules and Regulations committee: Warren S. Kessler, John H. Callahan, Frank F. Hoaglin, and so forth.
Unfortunately, the fair organization experienced financial problems, and the fair property was sold for $800 for unpaid back taxes in April, 1902. The Albion Fair ceased to be. A new association was formed in 1912, called the Albion Driving Club, which leased the old fairgrounds from its owner, Mrs. Jane Hayes. It held events there during the summer months.
The racetrack was managed by a local blacksmith, Elmer J. O’Melay, who operated races there through World War I before the track was closed. The site later became part of the Haven Hills Dairy farm.
This week we present a photograph of a brass souvenir badge of the 3rd annual Albion Fair from 1897. The text states, "SOUVENIR, 3rd ANNUAL FAIR OCT 5-8 ALBION, MICH 1897." In the center are various agricultural and industrial emblems. Our second illustration is from the 1908 map of Albion by Roy Frank Berry, showing the location of the racetrack. Notice that at the time the private road known today as Haven Lane was a through street going all the way past the cemetery to Superior St. This road was the original entranceway into the south part of our city before the S. Superior St. bridge was built, as only the Haven Road bridge over the river existed at the time.
* Photo Credit Information Below
Map of the Fairgrounds in Albion
All text copyright, 2016 © all rights reserved Frank Passic
"Albion Historical Society Collection / Local History Room / Albion Public Library Collection"