Learning Ahead: Agricultural Fairs

Local Traditions & Cultures: Agricultural Fairs

As summer winds down and signs of autumn appear, annual agricultural fairs throughout Western Massachusetts mark the season with celebrations of local culture through the lens of farming traditions. Beginning as early as August, these annual fairs honor the unique character of towns throughout our region, fostering community pride, and strengthening intergenerational relationships through a shared interest and experience. With a stroll through exhibition halls on the fairgrounds and experiencing both traditional skills, crafts, and customs, visitors can support their interests through various learning opportunities while cultivating relationships and strengthening a deeper sense of place.

With many exhibition categories reserved specifically for youngsters, exhibition halls offer families the opportunity to share their own work, projects, and produce with others – and the opportunity to share the active role that they have in preserving local culture. See our post, Youth Participation at Agricultural Fairs Learning about History, Agriculture, Science & More.

Agricultural fairs help to preserve our local history by showcasing the skills, crafts and home-grown produce unique to rural life that have been cherished and passed on for generations. Through participation in these rich traditions we support the preservation of culture, local history, and a connection to place.   The agricultural fair’s long-standing presence in New England history reminds people of the importance in gathering to celebrate and share, even during difficult times, in order to foster a sense of community and collaborative spirit.  Many fairs are over 150 years old and have even taken place during some of our country’s most difficult economic periods and war time.  These generations-old traditions of agriculture, self-sufficiency, and resiliency in rural communities afford families opportunities to participate in intergenerational community-based traditions while offering a myriad of entertainment and skill-sharing experiences inspired by a shared interest in traditional crafts, history, land, and art.

These annual community-based events give learners great insight to the past through current day traditions. Take the time to learn about the long and rich history of our agricultural fairs and you’ll have a renewed way of viewing the many traditions found at each fair. Historical society museums are at some fairgrounds, open during the fair for families to view primary source artifacts and antique equipment displays. Come curious and bring your questions!

Here are 10 agricultural fairs in western Massachusetts to plan for, spanning nearly 200 years of agricultural history!

  1. Est. 1818, Three County Fair (Northampton): Labor Day Weekend (fair history)
  2. Est. 1848, Franklin County Fair (Greenfield): Mid September (fair history)
  3. Est. 1855Middlefield Fair: Mid August (fair history)
  4. Est. 1856, Belchertown Fair: Mid-Late September
  5. Est. 1867, Blandford Fair: Labor Day Weekend (fair history)
  6. Est. 1883, Cummington Fair: Late August (fair history)
  7. Est. 1923, Littleville Fair (Chester, MA): Early August
  8. Est. 1927Westfield Fair: Late August (fair history)
  9. Est. 1969, Heath Fair: Late August
  10. Est. 1973, Adams Fair: Late July/Early August

Excerpt from Learning Ahead: Cultural Itinerary for Western Massachusetts (Seasons: Sept/Oct), a downloadable bimonthly publication produced by Hilltown Families that sheds light on embedded learning opportunities found in cultural resources that exist within the geography, history, and cultural traditions of Western Massachusetts.

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