Col. Theodore Roosevelt at the Suffolk County Fair During His Campaign for Governor, Riverhead Fair Grounds, 1898. Roosevelt is standing on the Starting Tower, which was used for trotting races and many other popular events at the Riverhead Fair Grounds. (Image from the Orville Young Pictorial Collection of the Suffolk County Historical Society Library Archives. Copyright © Suffolk County Historical Society. All rights reserved.)
The Suffolk County Fair took place for nearly a hundred years, from the 1840s thru most of the 1930s, and was organized by the Suffolk County Agricultural Society. The Society’s Fair Grounds at Riverhead, today owned by the Riverhead Central School District, was the site of many Suffolk County Fairs and numerous other popular events in Suffolk County’s history. Babe Ruth once played a baseball game here, and Teddy Roosevelt campaigned for New York State governor. The following extracts and documents from Annual Reports of the Suffolk County Agricultural Society within our library collection as well as from the Brooklyn Eagle give us a glimpse into the amazing history of the Riverhead Fair Grounds.
THE COUNTY FAIR (1869 Annual Report)
The Annual Fair of the Suffolk County Agricultural Society opened on Wednesday of last week, in a new buiding and enclosure at Riverhead, under the most favorable circumstances, being a grand success, and surpassing anything of the kind ever held in this county–both in articles exhibited, number of persons present, and everything pertaining thereto, and one which will be long remembered by the people of Old Suffolk.
On approaching the Fair Grounds, one’s eye would behold what was truly a county-fair enclosure, with all the modern improvements. The grounds are conveniently situated but a short distance north of the railroad depot–as level a spot as could be well obtained–and contains a little more than 20 acres, being a donation to the Society by the people of Riverhead. It is enclosed by a high board-fence, at the southeast corner of which is the entrance, President’s office, etc. At the west side of the lot are the stalls for the horses and cattle, and the coops for poultry; the north side is devoted to a half-mile race course, while the south and east sides are used for the exhibition of carriages, agricultural implements, hucksters’ tents, etc. In the center of the race course there is a level spot devoted to the players of baseball, and at the west side of the track there are two large stands, capable of seating upward of a thousand people, erected for the accommodation of those who wish to witness the trial of horse speed…. A large number of people passed over the Long Island Railroad to attend the exhibition, and a vast number came by other means, and it is estimated by competent judges that on Thursday afternoon from six to seven thousand persons were at one time present….