In 1880 Hanna K. Marshall of Dayton, Pennsylvania went on a campaign to establish a local fair. She was quite persistent in her efforts and soon many of the local leading citizens took up her idea and decided to sell shares of stock in a fair for ten dollars. In April of that year a meeting was held an the sale of stock was deemed a success. The Dayton Fair was formed and called "The Dayton Agricultural & Mechanical Association." Immediately the first fair was planned for September 28th - October 1st. A committee was assigned the task of finding a suitable location. As a result 16 2/3 acres was leased from T. H. Marshall. A fence, seven feet high made of pine boards with chestnut posts to be sunk three feet, was erected.
Then a race track to be 1/4 mile oval was next to be established. Teams of horses used to plow and grade the track were supplied by local men. The most challenging part of this was the removal of an oak tree that grew where horses now enter the track. With the use of manpower as well as horsepower the track came to be.
The price of admission at that first fair was five cents, and the only attraction on the midway was a big bear in a tent. Mr. Roscoe believed he was present every day of that first fair, and he was just 12 years old at the time. He always remembered the bear because he spent most of his time watching it. The second biggest attraction at the earliest Dayton Fairs was the mile-long foot race on the oval track where Reid Marshall was easily the winner for a few years.
The elected officers that first year were president T.M. Elder, Vice Presidents J.W. Smith, G.C. Stockdill, Wm. Moser, M.T. Work, G.A. Barnard, A.D. Glenn and Dr. Christ McCune, Sectetary M.L. Thounhurst, Corresponding Secretary D.W. Lawson, Treasurer S.S. Caldwell as well as Librarian W.W. Caldwell. The Managers were G.C. Borland, Abram Good and the others whose names the secretary failed to record. Auditors for the fair included John Steel, W.P. Borland and Wm Marshall. The Chief Marshall was R.o. Clever. In 1881 all elected officers were to be paid one dollar per day for each day spent on Association interests.
Interestingly, a policeman, Samual Myers, was hired to stay in the woods at the lower end of the grounds to keep a sharp lookout for fellows trying to enter the grounds by climbing the fence.
In 1883, the number of managers was changed from five to seven and the last Tuesday in September was resolved to be the annual opening for the Dayton Fair.
In 1886 the Dayton Fair was recorded as a "wet one" and as a result only a percentage of the premiums were paid. In 1898 when the fairgrounds were still being rented from Thomas Marshall, the managers moved that he be offered $1650.00 for the enclosed land and also a lease to buy the adjoining land so there could be a half mile race track on the grounds. The money for this came from from the sale of additional stock and from proceeds of previous fairs. Ultimately it was reported that the land was purchased for $1590.00 and 5 shares of stock. Over 400 shares of stock are still owned by shareholders.
Over the years visitors to the fair were introduced to many modern wonders. The first electric lantern, the flashlight, caused much amazement. Even the auto first came to the fair when it was exhibited by Mr. DuBoise shortly after 1900. Residents living near the fairgrounds long remembered the gypsy caravans that came to the fair, causing parents serious warning to "stay away." At fair time the town's hotels would overflow, wagons and buggies filled the streets and the railroad depot was bustling with families carrying their picnic baskets.
Today, a board of directors works hard all year long to make the Dayton Fair the best it can be. The Dayton Fair is a week of the entertainment for everyone, young and old with thousands flocking to the fairgrounds each day.