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BY MIKE AVITT
I took this week’s photo on May 15, 2010. This was originally Monroe No. 8 and it was moved to the Daughton property north of Kellerton after being retired as a schoolhouse. Bob Sickels and a crew moved the building to the Ringgold County Fairgrounds in October 1992 where the restoration work began. I believe it opened to the public in 1994. New siding was put on the school in 2017.
The Ringgold County Fair Association was organized in 1859 with Isaac Keller as president. A couple of fairs were held in Mt. Ayr until the Civil War halted the annual event. After the war, forty acres of land was obtained from Charles Drake northeast of Mt. Ayr by the Ringgold Agricultural Society. Fairs were held here for a few years.
About 1890, horse racing brought gambling to the fair and the celebration lost favor with many locals. But there were other problems, too. Towns began hosting “Old Settlers Reunions” and other activities like street fairs. Competition got worse with the advent of the Farmers Institute. And then Chautauqua came along.
Chautauqua was an educational, social, and religious movement that became very popular in rural Iowa at the start of the 20th Century. Chautauqua events were held in large tents by traveling companies. The celebration was comprised of speakers, acrobats, singing groups, educators, musical performances, dancers, preachers, and comedians. This annual event was last held in Mt. Ayr in, I believe, 1928.
By this time, the fair association had disbanded and the grounds sold in 1913. Meanwhile, an organization called the Livestock and Agricultural Association had been holding livestock shows in the county. In 1939, an organization called the Ringgold County Stock Show Association bought back the old fairgrounds for $3,000. The Ringgold County Fair was re-born from that effort.
In 1949, Leonard Rusk built a 60 x 100 foot cattle barn and other buildings followed the same year. In 1960, go-cart races began and in 1963 a barn 42 x 63 foot was added.
In 1969, the first Ringgold County Fair Queen contest was held and in 1998 the figure-8 track was built.
Some things come and go. Some things come and stay. Some things go and come back.