Great Allentown Fair: Wikis


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Great Allentown Fair
Allentown Fair Logo.png
Location(s) Allentown, Pennsylvania
Years active 158
Date(s) August 26 - September 1
Genre Agricultural

The Great Allentown Fair is an annual fair and agricultural show that is held at the Allentown Fairgrounds in Allentown, Lehigh County, Pennsylvania, in the United States. It is operated by the Lehigh County Agricultural Society.[1] It is one of the oldest fairs in the United States, and one of the largest in the state of Pennsylvania.

The fair was first held in 1852 to showcase agricultural advancements and to entertain patrons. It has since evolved to appeal to a broader audience, adding more entertainment and dining options.[1] Although it stays true to its agricultural roots by offering petting zoos, livestock judging contests, and a farmer's market, the modern-day fair focuses more on entertainment; it boasts a carnival, talent shows, and concerts.[2][3]




Early history of the Allentown Fair

The Lehigh County Agricultural Society held the first fair from October 6 to October 8, 1852, on Livingston's Lawn, a 5-acre (20,000 m2) plot located east of Fourth Street, between Walnut and Union Streets, in Allentown.[4][5] The initial fair was so successful that in 1853 the Society undertook the purchase of a larger plot of land, north of Liberty Street and between Fifth and Sixth Streets, on which ticket offices and a two-story exhibition hall were built.[6] This location was the site of the second fair, held September 28, 29 and 30 of the same year.[6] One of the most popular attractions of these early fairs was Stephen Lentz's Flying Coach, a brass band that performed atop a hay wagon.[5][7]

In 1862, there was no fair due to the Civil War. During this time, the fairgrounds were used as a staging site for the 176th Regiment of Pennsylvania Volunteers.[7] The fair resumed in 1863. In 1876, in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, a large reenactment of the Battle of Bunker Hill was held, which included many of Lehigh County's Civil War regiments and veterans as participants.[8] The "centennial" fair was a tremendous success.[8]

New fairgrounds and new name

Throughout the 1870s and 1880s, the popularity of the Allentown Fair continued to grow. However, increased attendance led to dissatisfaction regarding the fairground's size, facilities, short race track and small grandstand.[9] In 1889, the Lehigh County Agricultural Society purchased a plot of land on Seventeenth Street, between Chew and Liberty Streets, to serve as the new fairgrounds.[9] One of the primary features of the new location was a new half-mile race track, with grandstands capable of seating 2,500.[9] In celebration of the opening of the new fairgrounds, the fair was renamed the "Great Allentown Fair."[9]

The Great Allentown Fair in the 20th Century

The Horse Exhibit Hall on the Allentown Fairgrounds in the early 1900s.

From its earliest days, horse racing was a popular event at the Allentown Fair. In 1902, the fair's half-mile track was regarded as "one of the finest in the country." [10] In 1905, racehorse Dan Patch set a record of 2:01 on the half-mile track.[11]

In 1908, a new grandstand was built at the Allentown Fairgrounds that increased seating capacity from 2,500 to 10,000. As of 2009, this structure remains in use as the Fairgrounds' grandstand.

Between the years 1907 and 1914, airship races became a featured attraction at the fair.[12] In 1909, two airships - one bearing the American flag, the other that of Germany, took off from the fairgrounds, raced down Hamilton Street, circled the Soldiers & Sailors Monument, and returned. The airship bearing the American flag won the race. [12] The following year, pilot Glenn Curtiss took off in his plane, using 19th Street as his runway, and flew over the Allentown Fair, in what was the first known heavier-than-air flight in the Lehigh Valley. [11]

The first auto race was held at the fair in 1915.[13] Sprint car races were sanctioned by the American Automobile Association (until 1955), the United States Automobile Club (1956-1966) and the International Motor Contest Association (1967 and 1968).[13] Sprint car legends Tommy Hinnershitz and Ira Vail both captured numerous wins on the half-mile dirt track, and Indianapolis 500 winners Mario Andretti, A.J. Foyt and Parnelli Jones all raced at the Allentown Fair before going on to greater fame.[13] In 1960, Johnny Thomson was killed during a race at the fair when his car crashed through the inside track fence.[13] Although the last sanctioned auto race was held in 1968[13], demolition derbies continued to be popular event.

There was no fair held in 1917 and 1918 due to World War I. During this period, the fairground was transformed into Camp Crane, a training facility for the U.S. Army Ambulance Corps Service (USAACS). During this time, more than 20,000 soldiers lived in tents and barracks on the fairgrounds.[14] The caretaker's house, which stood at 1701 Chew Street until demolished in 1960 to make room for a bank, was used as the officer's club.[15]

In 1951, Gen. Douglas MacArthur, his wife, and his son Arthur attended "Father and Son" day at the Allentown Fair[16], a visit described by local historian Frank Whelan as "probably among the most significant moments in the fair's history."[17]

Beginning in the 1960s, musical concerts and performances held during Fair week starting drawing major acts and large crowds. Roy Rogers and Lawrence Welk appeared during the 1960s, as did Johnny Carson and a touring version of Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In.[18] Andy Williams introduced the Osmond Brothers in 1964.[18] In 1964, Kate Smith made her first "community fair" performance at the Allentown Fair.[18] Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass headlined in 1966, and the back cover of their album S.R.O. even featured a photograph taken during their performance.[18] On August 8, 1974, Liza Minnelli delayed her concert while Richard Nixon's resignation speech About this sound listen was broadcast live over the public address system.[18] Her performance later that night broke box office records at the Allentown Fair.[18] Sell-out performances have included the Doobie Brothers (1980), Pat Benatar (1981), Rod Stewart (1984) and Bryan Adams (1985).[19] In 1998, the Backstreet Boys set the record for the fastest sell-out of tickets.[11]


The Great Allentown Fair offers many attractions:[3]

  • Grandstand - A large outdoor stage where the fair's big-name musicians perform
  • Farmerama Theater - An amphitheater where talent contests are held and assorted daytime entertainment takes place
  • Music Tent - A tent where bands perform when an area as large as the Grandstand is not needed
  • Main Entrance Plaza - An area where special shows, such as juggling acts, are held
  • Powers Great American Midways - The fair's carnival
  • Agriplex/Agriland - The fair's agricultural-themed areas

Grandstand performers

1956: Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians[20]
1957: Lou Walter's Latin Quarter Revue[20]
1958: Variety show featuring Red Buttons, Ted Mack and Jonathan Winters[20]
1959: Roy Rogers[20]
1960: Grand Ole Opry Jamboree[20]
1963: Tennessee Ernie Ford, Jimmy Durante and Red Skelton[20]
1964: Andy Williams[20], The Osmond Brothers[20] and Kate Smith[18]
1965: Liberace[20]
1966: Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, Perry Como[20]
1967: The Supremes, Johnny Carson[20]
1968: Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In[20]
1968: Johnny Cash[20]
1970: Johnny Cash[20]
1971: Johnny Cash[20]
1974: Olivia Newton-John[20] and Liza Minnelli[18]
1975: Johnny Cash[20]
1977: Kansas[20]
1979: Steve Martin[20]
1980: Bill Cosby [21], The Doobie Brothers[19]
1981: Pat Benatar[20]
1984: Rod Stewart[22], Berlin[22], Thompson Twins[22], Alabama[23] and Willie Nelson[24]
1985: Alabama, Crosby, Stills and Nash, Foreigner, Kenny Rogers, The Oak Ridge Boys and The Pointer Sisters[25]
1986: The Beach Boys, Kenny Loggins, Wayne Newton, Kenny Rogers and Hank Williams, Jr.[26]
1987: Alabama, Bryan Adams, The Beach Boys, Chicago, Loretta Lynn with Conway Twitty, Restless Heart and Run D.M.C.[27]
1988: Alabama, The Judds, Lynyrd Skynyrd, K.T. Oslin and Robert Palmer[28]
1989: Alabama, Crosby, Stills and Nash, Loretta Lynn with Conway Twitty, Wayne Newton, Sandi Patti and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers [29]
1990: Alabama, Michael Bolton, Bobby Brown (scheduled to perform, then canceled), Chicago, Kenny G and Barbara Mandrell[29]
1991: Sheena Easton, Joe Piscopo, George Thorogood and the Destroyers[29]
1994: Barry Manilow, The Beach Boys, Alan Jackson, World Wrestling Entertainment wrestling (then known as WWF), Reba McEntire, Vince Gill
1995: Alan Jackson, Reba McEntire, Boyz II Men
1998: The Backstreet Boys[11]
1999: Blink 182, New Found Glory, Thursday, Britney Spears, 98 Degrees, Tim McGraw
2000: Martina McBride (Replaced LeAnn Rimes)
2002: Meat Loaf
2002: Jimmy Eat World,The Juliana Theory, Coheed And Cambria was supposed to play, however, due to band issues My Chemical Romance played in their place
2004: Motley Crue
2005: Nickelback, Breaking Benjamin
2006: Black Eyed Peas,My Chemical Romance(scheduled to play but cancelled) Taking Back Sunday, Circa Survive, Hot Like A Robot
2007: Hootie and the Blowfish, Counting Crows, Carrie Underwood, Hilary Duff, American Idols LIVE! Tour 2007, Brad Paisley, Taylor Swift, Hinder, Papa Roach
2008: Brooks & Dunn, Daughtry, Jonas Brothers, Toby Keith, Metro Station, Secondhand Serenade, Simple Plan, The Doodlebops and ZZ Top[30]
2009: Earth, Wind & Fire, Chicago, Jeff Dunham, Brad Paisley, Dierks Bentley, Jimmy Wayne, Kelly Clarkson, and Tim McGraw
2010: Keith Urban, Jeff Dunham


  • Lehigh County Agricultural Society (1902). History of the Lehigh County Agricultural Society. Allentown, Pennsylvania: Berkemeyer, Keck & Co. 


  1. ^ a b "About The Great Allentown Fair". Retrieved 2008-08-03. 
  2. ^ "2008 Agri-Land Events". Retrieved 2008-08-03. 
  3. ^ a b "Entertainment At The Great Allentown Fair". Retrieved 2008-08-03. 
  4. ^ History of the Lehigh County Agricultural Society, p. 8
  5. ^ a b Nerl, Daryl (January 25, 2002), "Actors relive fair's genesis ** It was created in Allentown 150 years ago to entertain and promote farming.", The Morning Call: B.01 
  6. ^ a b History, p. 9
  7. ^ a b History, p. 13
  8. ^ a b History, p. 15
  9. ^ a b c d History, p. 17
  10. ^ History, page 25
  11. ^ a b c d "The Great Allentown Fair 150 Years", The Morning Call: S.8, August 25, 2002, 
  12. ^ a b Whelan, Frank (September 7, 2005), "They soared through air with ease ** Allentown Fair featured airships and airplanes from 1907-14", The Morning Call: B.6, 
  13. ^ a b c d e Devlin, Ron (August 24, 2003), "A rich racing history ** The glory days of sprint cars at the Allentown Fairgrounds are captured in the work of preservationists.", The Morning Call: J.3, 
  14. ^ Wlazalek, Ann (May 20, 2002), "Army's Camp Crane remembered at fairgrounds ** Allentown site saw World War I era of ambulance training.", The Morning Call: B.1 
  15. ^ Whelan, Frank (August 14, 2002), "Home used to house fair groundskeeper.", The Morning Call: B.4 
  16. ^ Whelan, Frank (January 30, 2000), "MacArthur's Trip To Valley Had Residents At Attention - The General Brought His Wife And Son.", The Morning Call: B.03, 
  17. ^ Whelan, Frank (January 16, 2002), "MacArthur Road's heroic name.", The Morning Call: B.4, 
  18. ^ a b c d e f g h Wittman, Bob (August 25, 2002), "The Great Allentown Fair 150 Years 1852-2002 ** Why we're drawn to the fair.", The Morning Call: S.01 
  19. ^ a b "Morning Call Film Fest In Fifth Year; Bryan Adams Show Was A Sellout.", The Morning Call: D.05, June 28, 1985 
  20. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t Whelan, Frank (August 26, 1984), "The Allentown Fair: Its Patrons Have Seen It All - From A One-Horse Merry-Go-Round To Raucous Rock 'N' Rollers.", The Morning Call: F.01 
  21. ^ Lawler, Sylvia (February 2, 1985), "Whoever The Real Bill Cosby Is, He's Funny And America Loves Him.", The Morning Call: F.01 
  22. ^ a b c "Allentown Fair Books Berlin, Thompson Twins.", The Morning Call: B.03, July 26, 1984 
  23. ^ Willistein, Paul (August 19, 1984), "Alabama Lead Guitarist Traces Group's Long Road To Stardom.", The Morning Call: F.01 
  24. ^ Willistein, Paul (September 2, 1984), "Living Legend' Is Returning For Allentown Fair Show Today.", The Morning Call: F.01 
  25. ^ Willistein, Paul (August 25, 1985), "1985 Allentown Fair Sights, Sounds And Merriment On Tap For 133rd Edition.", The Morning Call: F.01 
  26. ^ Willistein, Paul (June 26, 1986), "Summer Preview Pendulum Swings The Other Way Rock Concerts.", The Morning Call: D.01 
  27. ^ Willistein, Paul (August 30, 1987), "Fair Placing More Emphasis On Agricultural Aspect This Year Allentown Fair Goes Back To Its Agricultural Roots.", The Morning Call: F.01 
  28. ^ "Lynyrd Skynyrd To Pay Tribute At The Allentown Fair.", The Morning Call: A.68, May 21, 1988 
  29. ^ a b c Jackson, Kimberly (August 29, 1989), "Fair To Open With Special Family Rate Exhibitors Are Preparing For Agricultural Events.", The Morning Call: B.01 
  30. ^ "2008 Grandstand Performers". Retrieved 2008-08-03. 

External links


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