Sketch of the original Exhibition Hall
Exhibition Hall today
Founded in 1841, The Agricultural Society of Queens, Nassau, and Suffolk Counties is one of the oldest agricultural societies in the United States.
Beginning in 1842, the Society sponsored its earliest fair, known then as the Queens County Fair, on vacant lots and member’s farms. It was not until 1866 that the Fair found a permanent home on Old Country Road and Washington Avenue in Mineola. Built through public subscriptions, the original fairgrounds consisted of livestock barns, carriage sheds, a business office, and an exhibition hall. Designed to be the centerpiece for the fairgrounds, the Exhibition Hall was a large cruciform building with a high central tower capped by a grand eagle weather vane. This building was made to house all of the horticultural, agricultural, and domestic arts displays.
The Queens County Fair was held nearly every Fall until 1899. In this year, Nassau County was created and the Fair changed its name to the Mineola Fair. Over the next 50 years, Nassau County would grow in population, eventually displacing the Fair to make room for the County Court Complex. The Fair was then moved to Roosevelt Raceway until 1970.
In 1970, the Fair would move to Old Bethpage Village Restoration, where it was renamed the Long Island Fair. The fairgrounds constructed on the Restoration’s property would replicate the original grounds, including the Superintendents’ Office, the only surviving 19th century building from the Mineola Fairgrounds. Also, just like the original, the new Fairgrounds were built through public support. Mrs. J. Alfred Valentine provided the leading citizen gift to a major capital fund in memory of her husband “Al” Valentine, who served as president of the Agricultural Society for many years. The Fairgrounds were completed in 1995 when construction on the replica Exhibition Hall was finished. No matter its name, The Long Island Fair has been a part of Long Island history for 180 years. Exhibiting, donating, volunteering, and even simply coming in to see what your neighbors can do makes you a part of that tradition.