Barnstable County Fair – Information on a Cape Cod Tradition

Barnstable County Fair

The Barnstable County Fair has been a Cape Cod family tradition spanning 171 years.   It features live music, amusement park rides and games, animal shows, a petting zoo, 4H demonstrations, horticulture displays, arts and crafts, food and commercial vendors, live stock competitions and small arena shows with horse pulls, dressage, and horse jumping.

Tens of thousands of visitors are drawn to the Barnstable County Fair each summer for the 7-day event — with the crowds topping 90,000 in recent years.  The Barnstable County Fair is held at the 100-acre Cape Cod Fairgrounds, at 1220 Nathan Ellis Highway (Route 151) off of Route 28 in East Falmouth, MA.

Barnstable County Fair Musical Acts

Over the years, Barnstable County Fair Acts have included musical headliners, such as: Motown’s The Spinners; Tommy James and the Shondells; Sgt. Daniel Clark, Massachusetts’ Singing State Trooper; and more recently: Country Music Singers Dustin Lynch, and Josh Thompson, plus Pop rock bands like Vertical Horizon, and nostalgia acts like 1964 The Tribute – a Beatles Tribute band.

The 2016 Barnstable County Fair main stage performances include Eric Paslay, Sister Hazel, Felix Cavaliere’s Rascals and The Willis Clan.

Performing for a second consecutive year in 2016, is The Willis Clan, a family of musicians from greater Nashville who merge their Irish roots with other music genres to create a unique blend.

Barnstable County FairAction-Packed Featured Events

Team Extreme FMX/Motocross is a featured event for the 2016 Barnstable County Fair.  These high-flying athletes from around the U.S. perform daring, acrobatic tricks in the night sky above the fair’s arena in a judged competition with the winning rider receiving points towards their national ranking, plus a cash prize.

The famed Barnstable County Fair Demolition Derby also draws a large crowd of enthusiasts annually.

Barnstable County Fair Competitions And Awards:

For adults, the fair holds competitions and presents awards in the following categories:  American Pride; Apiary Products; Arts and Crafts; Baked Goods; Canned and Preserved Goods; Cut Flowers; Flower Arrangements; Flowering and Foliage Plants; Fruits and Vegetables; Knit, Crochet, Sewing, Dolls and Toys; Needle Arts; Photography; Quilts; and Rugs.

For youth, there are competitions and awards in these categories:  4-H Youth Awards; American Pride; Arts and Crafts; Clothing; Club or School Display; Flowers and Plants; Foods, including: Whoopie Pie Recipe, Gingerbread House Challenge and Trail Mix Challenge.  Also: Gardens; Home Furnishings; Photography; Science, including: Ecology, Environmental, and Marine; Vegetables; Youth/Children’s Pet Show;  and 4-H Dog Show.

Livestock at the Barnstable County Fair

The Barnstable County Fair has various livestock throughout the week.  From a petting zoo to a poultry show and everything in between, it’s a must attend if you have children or just love animals.

Barnstable County FairBarnstable County Fair History

The Barnstable County Agricultural Society held its first fair, with livestock and handicraft exhibits, in 1844 at the County Court House in Barnstable Village.

By the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, the Barnstable County Fair had become the most popular annual event on Cape Cod. Attractions included: Grange exhibits, trotting horses, sulky racing, vaudeville acts, motorcycle racing, livestock exhibits, horse and oxen drags, fireworks, and food tents.

The most colorful and successful Barnstable County Fairs during that period were held in 1899 and 1920.

The 1899 fair featured 1,200 exhibitors, sideshow barkers announcing bizarre sights, and the merry-go-round weaving its melodic spell to charm approximately 12,000 visitors.  $800 purses attracted interest in the trotting races, and the Hyannis Band Concert drew a festive crowd. The biggest Cape Cod sports event of the times — the baseball series finals and championship games — were special attractions.  And, ladies and gentleman in evening finery danced to the music of Brigham’s eight-piece band at the Agricultural Ball.

History has it that the 1920 Barnstable County Fair was the most financially successful. The Barnstable County Agricultural Society erected a $2,500 poultry building and spent $1,500 on paint throughout the Cape Cod Fairgrounds.

Unfortunately, each fair date following 1920 found the fair less successful; the Barnstable County Agricultural Society declared in 1931 that it’s 87th Fair would be its last.

However, in 1954, a committee of citizens succeeded in reviving the event.  But, in 1955, a combination of the Polio scare and a hurricane took its toll on fair attendance. A Special Barnstable County Fair train from Boston to Cape Cod carried only two passengers. The Barnstable County Fair opened and closed the same day.

The community rallied with an outpouring of financial support to help the Barnstable County Agricultural Society pay off the debts of the failed fair that season. The experience was galvanizing, because since that disastrous year, the Barnstable County Fair has continued to grow in size and popularity.

Barnstable County FairDirections to the Barnstable County Fair

Whether you are traveling from Provincetown or from Boston, the Barnstable County Fair is easily accessible.  The Barnstable County Fair is held on the Cape Cod Fairgrounds located off of Route 28 in Falmouth on Route 151.  A map is below for you to reference.  If you need help with directions, click this link.  You’ll also want to check out our Cape Cod Traffic page for the latest traffic.

For more information about the Barnstable County Fair, click this link.

About the Fair & the Barnstable County Agricultural Society

  • The Barnstable County Fair was established in 1844 by the Barnstable County Agricultural Society — a non-profit 501-C3 organization that receives no state or local government funding.
  • The Society gives out $35,000 in scholarships.
  • The Society spends in excess of $120,000 a year with local businesses.
  • No Officer, Director or Board member receives any salary.
  • The fair’s Grounds and Parking Department employs local teenagers to work before, during, and after the fair.
  • The Society donates over $10,000 to local groups.
  • The Society expends over $4,200 for hotel rooms during the 7-day fair.
  • The Society has 3 full time and 1 part time employee with salaries totaling $175,000.
  • The Police and security bill for 2014 was $80.000.
  • The Fire Department bill for 2014 was $15,000.
  • The Entertainment Budget for 2014 was $210,000.

Material from capecodfairgrounds.com was used in this report.

Barnstable County Fair

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