Hudsonville Fair History
HUDSONVILLE FAIR HISTORY
The Chicago World Fair inspired the start in 1933 of the Hudsonville Fair. Originally the fair was held at the high school gymnasium. The Fair exhibits and programs included band concerts, spelling bees, and local talent. Later for some animal competition the exhibits were brought in for a one day show. Baseball and parades were often the biggest attraction. Products of the farm and home were exhibited: poultry, lowland crops, fruit, highland crops, calves, hunting dogs, needle and fancywork, canned and baked goods. This fair began as a three-day event (Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, September 11, 12 and 13) and continues to this day, spanning a week and drawing more than 80,000 through its gates.
Most of the community might find it difficult to envision the Hudsonville Community Fair any place other than on its current forty acre site on the west side of the city. The Hudsonville Public School located at School and Madison was the center of activity for the early years of the fair. The antiques and artwork were displayed in the basement of the school. The city street served as a race track and there was horse racing right down Curtis Street. The fair started with farm produce, canned goods, and needlework. Livestock was added to the fair later.
Stories were told, and there are pictures to prove, that horse races were conducted west of the school where there was still a lot of open land. There are few recorded records of these events today but reports indicate that there was very good response from the community to make this event successful.
About 1950 or before the fair was moved to Hughes Park where, over the years, several buildings were built. The buildings included a round roofed 48′ x 96′ building for programs, a 24′ x 100′ and 24′ x 50′ building for livestock, a block building for an office and a food building. They did rent some tents for more displays. They laid down a concrete slab for tractor pulling. There was no fence around the area. The income was donations, a parking charge, food returns and later a carnival. The fair was well attended but they did not have enough income. Later tractor and horse pulling were the main outside attractions and the inside program which continued to include local talent drew a good attendance. After some 29 years from 1934 through 1962 their net worth was only about $4,000.00 including the buildings, chairs and wooden bleacher seats. The park was too small. It was time to move.
The fair was moved to the new grounds in 1963. The total property that year was less than 14 acres. Only the December 26 minutes from 1962 are on record but other records show that 13+ acres were bought for $6,000.00.
Most of this area was brush, plus a couple large trees and an old apple orchard that we were advised to clear off completely. Two trees remaining from that date are east of the buildings and one is near the shop. The rows of trees on the north parking lot were spared. The rows of trees south of the arena building were not a part of the new grounds at that time.
The early fairs were pleasant times; people came around, enjoyed exhibits and had time to spend talking with each other. Today, the Hudsonville Community Fair is the center for 3,168 4-H exhibits and 4,331 open entries for all ages. Over $39,000 was given away in premiums last year. With a gate attendance of 80,000 it is the hub of activity for the community beginning on Sunday and ending late Saturday. In August it represents the last hurrah for young people and families before school begins the following week. The Hudsonville Community Fair, with deep roots in our past, has the vision to continue growing to offer western Michigan the “Biggest Little Fair in the State”.
GENERAL FAIR STATS
- 1962 – .50 per Adults under 12 Free
- 1963 – .50 per Adults under 12 Free, Parking .50 per car
- 1964 – .50 per Adults under 12 Free, Parking .50 per car
- 1966 – .75 per Adults under 12 Free, Parking Free
- 1967 – .75 per Adults under 12 Free, Parking Free, $2.00 Season Pass
- 1968 – 1.00 per Adults under 12 Free, Parking Free, $3.00 Season Pass
- 1972 – 1.00 per Adults under 12 Free, Parking Free, $4.00 Season Pass
- 1973 – 1.25 per Adults under 12 Free, Parking Free, $5.00 Season Pass
- 1975 – 1.50 per Adults under 12 Free, Parking Free, $6.00 Season Pass
- 1976 – 2.00 per Adults under 12 Free, Parking Free, $8.00 Season Pass
- 2008 – 3.00 per Adults under 12 Free, Parking Free, $8.00 Season Pass
LENGTH OF FAIR
- 1962 4 Day Fair: Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday
- 1966 5 Day Fair: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday
- 1970 6 Day Fair: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday
- 1974 7 Day Fair: Sunday (Hymn Sing), Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday
- 2008 7 Day Fair: Sunday (Inspirational Christian Music Concert), Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday
MAJOR FAIR ACTIVITY
1964 – 1969
- Build a 32′ x 104′ barn
- Bought 72 feet bleachers, ten high and put on concrete footings
- Built a wash rack with roof
- Bought 22+ acres from Ed J.
- Churches added a building for seating and tables
- Scheduled fireworks for Wed.
- Planted pine trees along the south line
- Moved the south ditch drain to go straight east instead of north east.
- Used south area for parking
- Moved Building #9 from the park
1970 – 1975
- Brought the west acreage from Ed Jelsma $6,000.00 plus $9,000.00 Sewer assessment.
- Fought legal problems —- dust, noise, vermin
- Brought in city water
- Moved the track and bleachers south about 600 feet
- Had a tractor pulling sled built
- Connected kitchens and toilets to city sewer
- Started snowmobile racing
- Built, two story, block, judges stand in arena
- Built a 32′ x 100′ pole type building for horses
- First demolition derby with Al Slagert
- More city water to new toilets and fire hydrant
- Two garages donated. One movable. One became the shop.
- Scheduled Saturday for a 6 day fair week.
- 1971 Gerrit Berens and Herb DeKleine reported on the recent convention. Hudsonville received the Showmanship’s Award for the best fair operating and reporting in 1971 for fairs paying less than $11,000 premium money.
1976 – 1980
- Bought 144 feet of bleachers 10 high
- Built a better pulling machine $ 27,708.60
- Built office and restroom building
- Changed fiscal year to start Nov. 1
- Put milking machine in building #9.
- Built Poultry building
- Put two 30 x 90′ leans on building #9.
- Every class was given a unique number.
- Rebuilt #2 due to snow damage and added 100 feet.
- Had to order a tent for animal displays.
1981 – 1985
- 3500 feet of 7 foot fence with three barbs around inside area
- Move the west fence west
- 210 feet more bleachers
- Settled with Billy Watkins (Patent rights on pulling machine).
- CATV Disk contract for a plot of land
- Agreement with Bierlings (to the east) for parking rights.
- Sold the Humiliator for $25,000.00. We had 15 pulls lined up.
- Built the 80 x 120 foot Arena building
- Bought new John Deere tractor $9,300.00
- Built new 48′ x 18′ canteen at the bleachers
- Built the ladies building
- Fair sign placed on the highway.
1986 – 1990
- Build tarvia road from east to west over the grounds
- Enlarge kitchen
- Move the scale from arena
- Cement floor in two barns
- Install two pay telephones
- Remove concrete partitions from horse barn for storage
- Bought computer and software
- Build announcer stand behind N bleachers
- Phase II Enhancement offer. Tarvia total cost $11,000.00
- Phase II Enhancement offer. Building #10 cost $114,000.00 our cost $64,000.00
- Remove hazardous steel barriers from track.
- Build 32′ x 120′ building
- Prepare for mud run programs.
- Herm Scholten is State President for 1990
1991 – 1995
- Built new shop $10,000 Two new golf carts $600.00
- Move bleacher from #2 to Arena Bldg
- Rebuild manure pit
- Tarvia from north line to south drain
- Build 80 feet on each livestock building
- Put furnace in #10. Fill in mud pit
- Consumers plan a 750 KVA transformer for fair
- Addition to ladies building
- By laws revised
- Enlarge wash rack
- New arena west of the barns.
- More concrete in barns.
- New advertising “Largest Fair In Ottawa County”
- Build movable stage for old mobile home
- Redoing the east toilets.
- CATV contract canceled
- Bierling property cleared and leveled for parking
- Exhibitor numbers were defined
- Tile drain from manure pit to south drain constructed
- Bleachers 84′ x 10 high.
- Movable bleachers 18′ x 10 high.
1996 – 2010
- Changed computer software to Blue Ribbon
- Added second telephone line and fax
- Built 3 new wash racks (south of barn 9, south of poultry building, a small one for hogs between 18 & 17)
- Concrete in rabbit barn
- Heat in the shop
- Repaired bleachers for safety
- New furnace in office
- Bought motor driven welder
- Bought 20′ x 20′ tent
- Update electrical equip $7,000.00
- Replace 5 & 6 ( 68′ x 100′)
- Built an arena office from old mobile home
- Constructed a new ticket booth along north fence.
2011 – Current
- Changed direction of Horse arenas and add a 2nd arena.
The 4-H exhibits at the Hudsonville Community Fair reflect the strong agricultural roots of the community.
William Vander Laan, founder of the Hudsonville Community Fair and first president of its board, shows off a pumpkin that took first prize at a fair, circa 1935, when the event was held in tents and rids were limited to a Ferris wheel, a merry-go-round, and perhaps one other thriller.
The mutual anniversary of Hudsonville Community Fair and the Chicago World’s Fair is more than coincidence. The 1933-34 World’s Fair, an event that impressed people from near and far, inspired the start of Hudsonville Fair, according to one of the first members of the Hudsonville Fair Committee.
Chicago so close by, area residents flocked to the … Fair, Dirk Mouw, 77 chairman of the 1935 Hudsonville Fair’s Art craft and Antique Committee, recalled during an interview last week. “They said if Chicago can have a fair Hudsonville can too. So that’s how it started. That was the inspiration that really set the thing off”.
Hudsonville Fair Board’s first president, William Vander Laan, 94, of 5250 Southbrook Court, is credited with providing the local spark that generated interest in organizing a fair. “It was Bill’s idea,” said Henry VanNoord, 74, the board’s first secretary. “He was really the head push of the whole thing,” agreed Edward Wezeman, 76, chairman of the 1935 Educational Committee.
The infirmities of advanced years prevented VanderLaan from granting an interview, but other early board members filled in a picture of the fair that describes the reason for its popularity right from the start.