2023 FAIR DATE: July 6-9, 2023
After the Columbia County Agricultural Society (County Fair) held its annual exhibition in the Village of Lodi in 1863, prominent Lodi businessman, J.O. Eaton started to organize the Lodi Union Agricultural Society. J.O. Eaton had built the Weber’s Bakery and the American Legion buildings and knew how to get things done. Seeing the success of that County Fair sparked the idea, so he started to organize a group of citizens and held their first official meeting to form the Lodi Union Agricultural Society in 1863. The group included representatives from Lodi, Dane, Vienna, Roxbury, Dekorra and Arlington townships and met to organize and establish the original Lodi Union Fair. Towns of Merrimac, Prairie du Sac, Sumpter, Windsor, Westport, Springfield, Lowville, Hampden, and Leeds were added to complete the 20 mile compass of Lodi, thus, Lodi Union Fair name was chosen. The Lodi Union Agricultural Society’s first fair was held on October 2nd – 4th in 1866 on the McCloud property, which is the site of the Lodi’s First Presbyterian Church today. The meeting was led by J.O. Eaton, Esq. and George Yule was the recording secretary. The group chose an executive committee which drew up the constitution, by-laws and rules of membership. The first fair classes to be offered were: Blooded Horses, Matched Horses, Horses for Work, Mules and Jacks. Durham Cattle, Swine, Merino Sheep, and Poultry rounded out the animal list. Other classes included: Fine Arts, Fruits, Flowers, Vegetables, Grain, Dairy, and finally, a Ladies Equestman Display. In 1875, the fair was relocated to the 20 acre site on Fair Street, where the Lodi Driving Park Association trained their horses. This half-mile track was known as the one of best in the state. The Lodi Union Agricultural Society leased this ground for $50 per year until 1898 and they then secured a 10-year contract at $100 per year.
During those first years, admissions were charged. A season ticket was 50 cent or single day admission was 25 cents. Children under the age of 12 were charged a dime. They also charged for a team of horses at 50 cents and single horses were only 25 cents.
In 1909, the Fair’s Board of Directors offered shares of stock to be sold. The first share of stock was sold to Sherm Soders. The stockholders never received return on their investments as the profits were all pooled back into purchasing land, repairing buildings and the construction of the Information Booth/Ticket Office and the Fine Arts buildings.
The fall fair date presented conflicts with school day schedules, so they moved the fair up as a warm-up fair to the Columbia County Fair, as it still is on the calendar today.