Washington County Agricultural Fair to celebrate 225th anniversary


Pictured above is a scene from the 2022 4-H Junior Market Livestock Steer Show. There are upwards of 2,000 livestock entires alone per year and more than 2,600 and 6,600 agricultural exhibits and youth entries, respectively.

The local fair is an annual summer event that many community members and businesses look forward to. The Washington County Agricultural Fair is no exception, and this August marks an impressive milestone for the fair: its 225th anniversary. Though its establishment nearly predates the founding of the United States of America, the Washington Fair remains today a robust and vibrant mainstay in the community. 

The Washington fair began in October 1798 as a livestock market under the name “Morganza Fair.” It wasn’t for another 25 years that a fair society, the Agricultural Society of Washington County, was organized. The following March, the Washington County Society for the Promotion of Agricultural and Domestic Manufacture was formalized. It was among the first groups of its kind to form in the United States. 

In 1855, the society was incorporated and purchased new acreage near Trinity Hall where the fair would be held for the next thirty years until the society dissolved. A new group, the Western Pennsylvania Agricultural Society, was formed less than a year later. The new society relocated the grounds to Tylerdale. The fair remained in Tylerdale until 1901; no fair was held from 1901-1911. In 1911, the Washington Fair Association purchased 100 acres of land in Arden, PA. This location became the permanent home for the fair and is still in use today. 

Throughout the 20th century, many additions were made to the fair. From the introduction of a fireworks display in 1926 to the erection of a junior exhibit hall in 1953 to the construction of individual barns for each livestock category, the fair saw continual updates that reflected its growing popularity with both entrants and attendees. 

Updates have also been made to the categories available to enter in the fair. From livestock to homemade pies, there are many sections available for prospective entrants to choose. Category expansions over time is part of the reason the fair has remained popular over the last 200 plus years. 

Senior Ashlynn Powell commented on the staying power of Washington fair: “The agricultural industry as a whole has a large driving power. For them, the fair is not about the rides or the derbys; it’s their livelihood. The kids that were raised in the [agricultural] industry are the future[‘s] driving power to keep the fair moving.”

This year’s fair will be held in August 12-19, 2023. Details have yet to be released on the how festival will celebrate its 225th anniversary, but there are sure to be special events or celebratory additions to this year’s fair.. 

In the meantime, students interested in entering the fair can begin planning their entries. Students have the opportunity to be involved in the fair through the 4-H program, Future Farmers America (FFA) or the fair’s Open Youth division. Though there are certain project categories and guidelines specific to 4-H and FFA requirements, any youth from preschool to age 19 can enter in the open youth division. This division is a pared-down reflection of the sections available for adults to enter; it has less variety and less specificity within the categories. Additionally, students may enter some categories, specifically in the art classes, in the adult section under the “junior” category. Students interested in entering this year’s fair can find more information here.

Junior Ethan Ashby has participated in the Washington fair for much of his life. 

“I have been showing livestock at the fair since I was nine years old. I’ve shown cows and pigs and have participated in many fair activities over the years! Recently, I showed and sold my 2022 Market Steer under Trinity FFA…I look forward to showing livestock, the fair food and hanging out with friends and family that come around just for this event,” he said. 

Though it is extraordinary to consider just how long the Washington County Fair has been a fixture in the community, it is important to note that future fairs will rely on continued local interest in the livestock and agricultural industries. 

“While the fair is fun with the rides, derbys and food, there are many chances to educate others on just how all this came to be. The agricultural industry as a whole, I believe, is what will keep the fairs running for many years,” Powell remarked. 

Be sure to check out the Washington County Agricultural Fair this summer, or even consider entering one of its many categories to keep the fair in the community for another 225 years or more.