The History of the Calvert County Fair

About the FairThe Calvert County Fair Board, Inc. is an all volunteer, non-profit 501C (3) entity which was established in 1940 for the express purpose of providing agricultural education and promoting the local farming community. The Fair Board is operated by an 18 member Board of Directors, 18 Associate Directors, and several honorary members.

The first Calvert County fair was held in 1886 on the farm of Dr. Talbott in Smithville (now Dunkirk). This farm is still owned by his heirs, the Eisemans. This event was primarily a display of cattle and tobacco and a get-together for the men. Originally, horse racing was a popular part of the event. These were basically social events and while there is little known about the early efforts for a Fair, it is believed that these gatherings did continue as smaller events during the early years of the century. Under the direction and promotion of Mr. John Drury, who started what is now known as the Extension Service in Calvert County, the Fair grew more popular. Then, during the First World War, the area came upon leaner times and farming became crucial to the war efforts, so little was done in those years to promote Fairs.

A new Agricultural Agent arrived in Calvert and the determination was made to hold a Fair by an enthusiastic young man just out of the Agricultural Department of the University of Maryland. Mr. John Morsell, County Agent, saw a need to bring farmers and their families together for educational purposes as well as fun. During the twenties and early thirties he encouraged farmers to participate and the Fair eventually evolved into the major event that we enjoy today. The Calvert County Farm Bureau was organized during this time and the members also saw the benefits of holding a Fair annually.

It was their foresight in producing the Fair, and their decision to make the farm exhibits bigger and better. They determined to hold the event in the center of the county in the latter part of the summer. This would enable more farmers to participate as crops would be, for the most part, completed. The first mid-county fair was held at the Prince Frederick Town Hall with the livestock show on the grounds of Dr. Everett Briscoe’s farm just south of the Hall. In subsequent years it was held in front of the Evans Hotel, the Town Hall on Main Street, the Roberts property and later on the school grounds, which is now the site of Calvert Middle School.

It was in 1940 that the vision of several Farm Bureau members including Mr. Morsell, Mr. Ellis Bowen, and Mr. Claude Turner determined that the Fair needed a permanent home. They contacted a bank for a loan and personally obligated themselves to the purchase of a permanent site for the Fair. Mr. Ellis Bowen, who was then President of the Farm Bureau, resigned this position to become the first Fair Board President. They purchased a 9 acre site from Mr. Duke Brightwell which was located on what later came to be known as Armory Road. Two more parcels were added later as the Fair grew, bringing the total acreage to twelve. Cattle and animal buildings were built as well as a larger hall. The cattle buildings later burned mysteriously the night before a Fair but the large exhibition hall survived. These grounds were used until the present location was established in Barstow.

The Calvert County Fair Board, Inc. strives each year to build upon the work begun by those early Fair organizers. It is the goal of the Fair Board to hold an event that both educates and entertains, that reminds the current generation of its agricultural roots and promotes the importance of the agricultural community in the lives of all.

A little taste history

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