Wolcott Historical Society News - August 2012
By Florence Goodman
The Wolcott Agricultural Society was established on January 28, 1882 for the sole purpose of organizing an annual country fair. The first officers of the Society were Harmon Payne, President, Edwin A. Todd, Secretary, and Eratus W. Warner, Treasurer. At a later date Henry B. Carter was elected Vice President. All members paid one dollar for their annual dues.
Wolcott's residents were proud of their fine livestock and agricultural goods produced in their fields and wanted a venue to show them off. The first Agricultural Fair was held in the fall of 1882 on a tract of land on Bound Line Road next to where Wolcott High School is located today. Tents or temporary shelters were erected and premiums were awarded for the best exhibits. Ten dollars was earned for the best pair of draft horses or oxen, two dollars for the best family horse, and one dollar for the best litter of pigs. A prize of fifty cents was awarded for the best fruits, grains, and vegetables and winners of home handicrafts were given twenty-five cents. This location was used for two years.
In 1884 the fair was moved to Munson Road and held on the farm property of C.F. Munson. By 1889 the Society's eighth annual fair was held on Mr. Thomas Fairclough's river lot, which was next to the Mad River at the intersection of Munson and Coe Roads. At that time the upper Woodtick Dam had not been constructed so Fairclough's property covered the land where the upper reservoir is today and across Munson Road to the river. Scovill Road was Fairclough Road and it met up with Coe and Munson Roads at that intersection where the Kiwanis Club is located. This was a great location because it was "under the hills and away from the rude winds." A large tent was set to exhibit agricultural and industrial products. As usual the Mad River Grange had a large display of farm implements and fresh fruits and vegetables. The turnout was overwhelmingly good and over $300 was taken in at the gate alone.
As fair attendance increased more land was needed to accommodate these larger crowds. Thus early in the 1900s it was voted to purchase thirty acres of land at the intersection of Todd and Woodtick Roads from Harriet Julina Hall for $1842. The Society later voted to erect a permanent two-story exhibition hall on the new property, which was completed on October 13, 1913 at a cost of $1,730. This structure is still standing today and was used for the Lion's fairs from 1979 through 2011.
Those early fair days were wonderful times for the residents of Wolcott and the surrounding towns and they filled the air with a carnival spirit. Children were especially happy since it gave them some time off from school and an opportunity to show off their handiwork and possibly earn some prize money. Residents were able to earn extra cash by using their horse-drawn buses and carriages to provide transportation for fairgoers. Town constables were also kept busy keeping the peace and ready to place any disruptive attendees into the temporary wooden shack that served as their jail.
People traveled far and wide with their livestock or handiwork in order to display it at the fair and hoping to take home some extra cash or ribbons. One side of the fairgrounds housed the animals and handiwork while on the other side, the Midway, enticed people to try their chance at the carnival games. There were also aerial acrobatics, five-legged calves, and many other interesting attractions calling to people to spend that hard-earned money. Hawkers sold a variety of remedies, tools and equipment to those in need. You could purchase a full home cooked meal in the exhibition hall while enjoying the handiwork and produce from the Wolcott housewives and if you stayed until closing those goodies were sold to the visitors. Near the Todd Road side of the field was a large arena where fairgoers watched the competition between draft-horses or oxen that showed their strength by pulling huge loads of rock.
On October 5, 1940 the Wolcott Agricultural Society held its 54th and last fair on the Todd/Woodtick Road property. Rose Wakelee Badger and Maurice Goodson were the auditors for the fair. The Society sold the property to the Town of Wolcott on March 12, 1945 for $12,000; it became the site of Frisbie Elementary School. The Wolcott Agricultural Society was still in existence in 1967 according to a quote from Maurice Goodson in the Sunday Republican magazine in December of that year where he stated, "We're still an incorporated society, but we're not going to keep it up any more. The Agricultural Society is going out of business."
The Wolcott Lion's Club was established in our town on June 26, 1952 with Carl Mattson becoming the first president of the organization. From that point on this organization dedicated itself to serving to improve the health and welfare of the community of Wolcott. In 1979 the Lion's Club established its first Wolcott Country Fair and today it has become the area's largest agricultural and family event, which lasts for three days. Once again the Todd Road fair grounds were back in business with fairgoers able to enjoy many of the same things that their ancestors did in 1882 and much more. Events were scheduled for young and old, but everyone always seems to enjoy the large variety of food that is offered throughout the weekend. The Lion's Country Fair continued to be held at the Todd Road location until August of 2011.
This year 2012 will mark a new era in Wolcott Lion's Country Fair because it will be held at its new location on Wolcott Road. The Lion's acquired approximately 19 acres of land on Wolcott Road across from Nichols Road in the summer of 2000 to be used as the future site for the Fair. The property originally belonged to the Herbst family and consisted of their home and many other structures and a factory. The home was renovated and became the Lion's Den in 2002. Since that time the Lions have worked continuously to develop roads and redo many of the old structures on the property. To date, they have the Den, a garage with a building above it, a small electrical building, the red barn, which will be used to display arts and crafts, and a new building, in the back lower field by the pond, which is built on two foundations that were separate structures. If you enter from Wolcott Road and drive over the bridge, to the left, is the foundation of the old factory, which will probably be the next building that they will complete.
This August 17 through the 19 will be a new experience for all who attend the Fair. The grounds are larger so be prepared to do a bit more walking, but I know you will be pleasantly surprised when you see what hard work and dedication can do in such a short period of time. Probably the biggest change will be with the parking; with the exception of handicapped and vender parking everyone else will have to park at one of the designated parking lots around the Woodtick Recreation/BAW area and take a shuttle bus to the Fair. Remember this is the first year at this new location so if things don't run as smoothly as they did at the old location, just give them a year to get it all worked out. For more information on this new location go to the Lion's website for a map, premium book and other important information. See you at the Fair and don't forget to stop by the Red Barn that will house the "Arts and Crafts" to see the Wolcott Historical Society's booth as well as the newly organized Wolcott Grange's booth.
(Information from this article was taken from Wolcott on Parade by the Wolcott Historical Society, Wolcott, Connecticut 175th Anniversary 1796-1971 booklet, by John Washburne, The Sunday Republican Magazine, December 24, 1967, The Waterbury American, 1906, the Wolcott Lion's Club website, and a recent conversations with Richard Renkun, Wolcott Lion's Club and Stan Horzepa, Wolcott Historical Society.)
Our Schoolhouse Museum is open by appointment only; you may visit the Museum by calling Carl Hotkowski 203-592-8237 or Flo Goodman 203-879-9818. Our meetings are held on the first Thursday of each month at the Old Stone School on Nichols Road at 6:30 P.M. Visit our WebPages at (http://www.wolcotthistory.org/).
A post card of the Agricultural Fair from 1907.
Work horses pulling a heavy load of rock.
Todd Road fairgrounds in the 1930's.
Lion's crew renovating the Lion's Den.
Lion's Den completely renovated.
New red barn for Arts & Crafts.
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