North Adams Fairgrounds

I see London, I see France, I see… North Adams? In the early twentieth century, all three were almost equally popular tourist destinations for the same reason

In the fall of 1927, heavy amounts of rainfall created massive flooding in the Hoosic River, and the rushing water completely obliterated a piece of North Adams history. This piece of history was the Fairgrounds, the site for a variety of events that drew tens of thousands of people to North Adams each year. The Fairgrounds held everything from the annual Agricultural Society Cattle Show and Fair to the Ringling Brothers Circus to hot air balloon races. The Fairgrounds were such a big draw around the nation that William McKinley visited the Agricultural Fair in 1897, the first year of his presidency.

The Hoosac Valley Agricultural Society Cattle Show and Fair was one of the largest regular events to occur in Berkshire county. At its high point in 1911, the fair had 14,000 visitors in one day. Events at the fair included carriage racing, horse shows, and competitions for best animals and produce. In addition, farmers across the Hoosac Valley gathered at the fair to sell their products, ranging from fruits and vegetables that they had grown to clothing that they had made. Any stalls or vendors outside the fair were banned for up to a mile in any direction so as to draw more people in, although attendance was not an issue until the fairs last years.

Even more popular than the Agricultural Fair in North Adams was hot air ballooning. Here the fairgrounds served as a hub of sorts, being a large enough area of land for balloons to take off and land. However, ballooning was present in many other areas of North Adams as well. In fact, North Adams was one of the most popular places for hot air ballooning in the United States, on par with Paris and London, the centers for hot air ballooning in Europe. One of the biggest events to occur in North Adams history was the hot air balloon race of 1908, in which three air balloons raced from point to point, making it the first place in the country to host such an event. Hot air ballooning continued in North Adams after the fairgrounds were destroyed, but slowly fizzled out when the activity fell out of fashion.

Unfortunately, most of this rich history was lost in the flood of 1927. Due to the poor location of the fairgrounds, with the Hoosic River running right behind it, any time the river would flood there would be damage to the grounds. This grew to be a problem in the 1920s, as the river flooded more and more often, and came to a head in 1927, when a record-breaking flood caused irreversible damage. After they were cleared, Sprague Electric bought the fairgrounds in the 1930s and used them as a dumping ground for industrial waste, thus destroying any chance for the revival of the Fairgrounds in the future.