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Yates County Remembers: The Lake Street Fairgrounds

Yates Past - June 2008

We have been encouraging people to share their memories of times, events, and places that make up a small portion of Yates County’s history. We will pass these reminiscences along in our newsletter as space allows. The following was sent to us by Helen Hoban Smith of Penn Yan in response to John Potter’s article on the old Yates County Fairgrounds which was on Lake Street in Penn Yan.

I grew up across the street from the Fairgrounds in the late 20s and 30s. I lived on the corner of Lake and Monell St. where the Kwik Fill Station is now located. The Fair House, the entrance to the fair, was located across the street where the Lakes Gas Station is now located. The street going up to the fairgrounds was Kimble Avenue. There were five houses including the house on the corner going up to the entrance to the grounds. About the first building you saw upon entering was the Fair House. It was in the shape of a cross or a plus sign. The ladies would bring their canned fruits, vegetables, pickles, and other items to display and hopefully win a blue ribbon! The children would bring in their favorite pet. Somehow, the Windmill reminds me of the old time fairs!

During fair time, my sister was usually sick and not able to attend the fair. Right across from our house was the area where the flowers were kept. Every night they would throw out the flowers that were left to get ready for fresh ones the next day. My sister was very fond of gladiolus, so I would go over and pick out a few good ones to take to her!

The runway always had the usual rides and games to play. My sister and I would stand at our bedroom windows watching the Ferris wheel going around. It was in back of the Fair House building and we could see the top of the wheel when it was going around.

There was a race track, but I don’t remember if it was for cars, horses, or foot races. There was also a grandstand and a play area with swings and slides for the children. When the fair was not in progress, the children on Lake Street would go to play at the fairgrounds.

Where I lived, our property included a double-house, a garage, chicken coop, smokehouse, and a slaughter house. There were cows kept in the slaughter house and they were grazed across the street in the fairgrounds.

During fair time and circus time, some of the animals were brought by train. There were train tracks at the bottom of Monell Street and the animals were walked up to the fairgrounds. It was great fun watching them come up the street! Oh, the good old days -- gone forever. It was a sad day for me when the fair was moved to its new location. And now, the plans for the old fairgrounds site (Lake Street Plaza) actually will improve the area, but I still see it as the FAIRGROUNDS!!

Thank you to Helen Smith. We hope that “Yates County Remembers” will become a regular feature of our newsletter, but that will depend on our members and others being willing to share their memories with us.

SEE RELATED ARTICLE AND PHOTOS IN THE ARCHIVES: “YATES COUNTY FAIR”

by Helen Hoban Smith


Yates County History Center
107 Chapel Street, Penn Yan, NY 14527
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