Founded in 1841 as the Queens County Agricultural Society, The Agricultural Society of Queens, Nassau & Suffolk Counties is one of the oldest agricultural societies in the United States . The Society has sponsored a fair on Long Island since 1842. The earliest fairs sponsored by the Society were held on various members' farms and vacant lots in the Hempstead and Mineola area. Finally, in 1866, the Society acquired the original fairgrounds on Old Country Road at Washington Avenue in Mineola, and constructed livestock barns, carriage sheds, a business office, and surrounded it all with a castellated fence. The centerpiece of the new Fairgrounds was the large cruciform Exhibition Hall, with a high central tower capped by a grand eagle weathervane. Inside, a fancy iron fountain graced the center of the floor area that provided an exceptional exhibition space for the domestic arts, horticultural and agricultural displays of the fair.
Harpers, October 5, 1867
The Queens County Fair was held nearly every Fall on the new Fairgrounds. In 1899, after Nassau County was created out of the three eastern towns of Queens County , the Fair became known as the Mineola Fair. As such, it continued to be held until the 1950s.
As Nassau County grew, and lost much of its rural and agricultural character, the fair was displaced by the new County Court complex. The Mineola Fair then moved to Roosevelt Raceway.
In 1970 the fair returned to its agricultural roots when it moved to Old Bethpage Village Restoration. Now known as The Long Island Fair, it is held every year on a reconstructed fairground based on the original in Mineola . The fairground, like the original, is graced by a magnificent replica Exhibition Hall, complete with eagle weathervane and iron fountain. One of the largest wooden buildings constructed in the 1990's, it provides a marvelous backdrop for horticultural, agricultural, and domestic arts exhibits. The grounds also contain the only surviving 19th century building of the Mineola site - the small Superintendents' Office built in 1884.
The Exhibition Hall ca. 1910
The original fairgrounds were built through public subscriptions and the reconstructed grounds at Old Bethpage Village were made possible through contributions of the public and support of the County of Nassau . Mrs. J. Alfred Valentine provided the leading citizen gift to a major capital fund for the Exhibition Hall in memory of her husband "Al" Valentine, who served as president of the Society for many years and was instrumental in moving the fair to Old Bethpage in 1970.
The reconstructed Exhibition Hall today.
After 170 years the Long Island Fair continues as the only county fair sanctioned by New York State for the counties of Queens, Nassau and Suffolk .