Heritage Hall has various displays which provide a link from yesterday to today. Many of these exhibitors and displays return year after year to continue their connection with one of the longest standing events in Tuscola County. Heritage Hall information, for those wishing to help us exhibit items of the ‘days gone by’ may contact either:
Bob Nowland, 989.673.4096 or
Jim Fitzgerald, 989.673.2613.
The Merchant Building and Heritage Hall
Blending yesterday’s heritage with today’s businesses.
Our History, Since 1881-
On March 11, 1881, 33 years after the nations first state fair was held in Detroit, the Tuscola County Fair Association was organized, initially as the Caro District Agricultural Society. On September 19-22, 1882, the fair hosted its first Agricultural, Industrial and Recreational exhibition.
Always a primary agricultural attraction, the county fair has displayed new farming equipment and methods, animals, produce, and handicrafts on its current site.
The Tuscola County Fair out-dates any of the football “bowl” games as well as the Indy 500. When the fair started; there was no Panama canal, no radio, the Wright brothers had not flown, Ellis Island was not in operation, there was no AF of L., Geronimo was still on the war path, and 12 states had yet to be admitted to the Union.
Harness racing was a popular sport in a horse-powered society. The clay track was built in 1892, with 7,000 yards of dirt, mostly sand and topped with 3,000 yards of clay, at a cost of $1,000. This may seem like a small project, until you remember it was all hauled with horse and wagon!!
The first grandstand was completed in 1894 at a cost of $2,000 and looked much like the stands of Kentucky’s Churchill Downs and would seat about 1,500 people. This was followed by a stage, with a cement block basement for dressing rooms. Horse barns, sheep and hog pens were also constructed. In the early 1900′s the fair office and two restrooms were constructed. At about the same time, the building now called Heritage Hall was constructed and basketball games were held in this building until the new Caro High School was built on Frank Street.
The first electricity was provided by the Michigan Sugar Factory’s power plant. The railroad tracks leading to the plant were also used in the early era of the fair to bring entertainment acts to the fair. One of those acts was Katherine Stinson; the fourth licensed female pilot in the United States. Only 21 at the time, she became known as the “Flying Schoolgirl”, flying exhibitions all over the country, even adding lights and doing loops at night. She set many records, performed in Japan and China, and was the first woman sworn in by the Post Office as an air mail carrier. Her plane was brought in by train and then assembled in the infield of the track.
Over the years, many other world famous performers have appeared at our fair, including Gene Autry, The Cisco Kid, Minnie Pearl, Homer & Jethro, the Duke Ellington Band, and the Glenn Miller Band. Many of the names would not mean much to the youth of today.
The fair has not been without its share of troubles. Fire has damaged or destroyed several buildings over the years, including the older style wooden grandstands on two different occasions. Each fire however did not diminish the determination of the fair association.
Over the years many volunteer hours have been dedicated to preserving an American heritage, “the county fair”. The fair association owes many thanks to these volunteers as well as thanks to many civic organizations, and local businesses, and governmental agencies.
A true friend of the fair has been our closest neighbor, the Michigan Sugar Company. Over the years their help and cooperation can not be understated. The City of Caro, who owns the actual fairgrounds while the fair owns the buildings, has also been a vital source of support of the many years.
Anyone interested in becoming a member of the Tuscola County Fair Association may contact any of the Board of Directors for information. Our county fair has stood strong for over 125 years, and together we can continue this long-standing tradition.