Washington County Fair, the largest fair in Rhode Island, could be aptly described as a labor of love. After over 40 years, it has come a very long way from that first modest event held on the grounds of Perryville Grange in Wakefield in 1967. It began as a way to emphasize the importance of agriculture in our daily lives and to recreate the long time tradition of the county fair which was an important part of our heritage.
The idea for the Fair originated in the Washington County Pomona Grange which encompassed all the Subordinate or local Granges in the County. The Fair is owned and operated by the Washington County Pomona Grange. The Grange, Order of Patrons of Husbandry, is a National Organization with headquarters in Washington, DC. It is a Non-Profit fraternal organization with members in 38 states across the Nation. Organized December 4, 1867, it is the oldest Farm Family Fraternity in the Country with an enviable record of community service and good citizenship as cornerstones of its long history.
The individual Granges that make up the Pomona Grange do a tremendous amount of community service within their respective communities. Some of their work includes; kitting hats for newborns at hospitals, donating new dictionaries to elementary schools, giving food to the local food banks, donations to local charities and financial scholarships to high school students. Also the local Granges support Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, 4-H clubs, FFA, and other Agricultural organizations both financially and by hosting their meetings in their Grange halls and at the Fair Grounds. All the food booths at the Fair are Non-Profit and for most it is the primary fundraiser for their budgets for the year.
Our fair continued in Wakefield for two more years and by then it had become evident that more space was needed. A search for land culminated with the purchase of a large tract of land in Richmond. It seemed ideal for our needs and featured a large stand of pine trees on a sloping hill which we could envision as a natural amphitheater. The purchase was not only for a home for the fair, but as a recreational area for other organizations to enjoy. Now there was much to do. There was land to cleared, boulders to be removed, booths to build and a stage to be constructed. The list was awesome, but the Grangers were ready for the task. Grangers from other parts of the state and people who were interested in the project all came to lend a hand. It should be noted that the work on these grounds has been accomplished primarily by Grangers and their friends who have volunteered their time and talents to help the Fair grow and prosper.
As the years went by, more and more improvements have been added; the latest being the addition of a third ring for pulling events, a new sheep/goat barn, and a tremendous museum holding a vast collection of Agricultural equipment and other items from the past. A steering committee composed of Grange members from all walks of life guided the Fair. None had any experience running a Fair, but they have learned "on the job" so to speak. The Committee meets at least once a month and as soon as one Fair is in the books, they begin work on the next. The goal has always been to have an Authentic County Fair where families can come to enjoy the flavor of an earlier time in our history. The Washington County Fair is directly attributable to the countless numbers of men, woman and young people who have worked so tirelessly on this Labor of Love.