Monday, August 15, 2016

Oswego County Fair and the Heritage Building

I was neglectful in not writing about the Oswego County Fair before it happened so that readers who live near there could visit last week. This is the best fair in the area for genealogists. Really! I know people don’t think about attending a fair when they think about working on their genealogy, but if you have ancestors from Oswego County you can easily do both at once.

The fair is the typical small county fair with animal exhibits, a mid-way, food concessions and people hawking all kinds of products. At different times you can listen to local bands, attend a demolition derby or look at an antique car display. But, wander over to the far corner of the fairgrounds. There’s a pole building called the Heritage Building. The superintendent of the building is Shawn Doyle. Some of you might recognize him as either an Oswego County legislator or as the President of Half-Shire Historical Society. It is the latter hat he is mainly wearing when he is in this building.

This is the place that is the best for any genealogical or historical minded visitor. Within this building are exhibits dedicated to the history of many of the towns in Oswego County. This year, I believe all towns had a display and Fort Ontario even offered one as well. Fort Ontario’s even had historical hats that you could try on and have your picture taken if you wished! These displays vary from year to year, but feature some historical aspect of each town and along with it some of the older families of the towns. Many displays feature pictures of what the town looked like 100 years or so ago. Sometimes people are there demonstrating old time techniques. I’ve seen people spinning and sewing quilts among others over the years. An old piano sits near one wall that anyone can walk up to and play if they wish.

Situated in one corner of the building was the librarian form Half-Shire Historical. As always, she had many notebooks and other materials related to the genealogy and history of the area available to consult as well as her computer system there. On Saturday, and I understand for much of the run of the fair, she was busy scanning old pictures into the system in between talking with and helping people that came by.

In the center of the building is the heart of it. A large circle of tables display information about the society and various other organizations and events that are coming up in the area. A small display of older artifacts is housed in a glass case. However, much of the table space is taken up with books. What kind of books? Well, books on the history of various areas of the county, of various groups of people, cemetery records, newspaper abstracts, genealogies… If there is a book that has been published by an individual, historical society, town historian or the like in recent years on some aspect of Oswego County, it is likely available here. When I say it is available, I mean you can look at it just like in a bookstore and just like that store, you can buy a copy for yourself. Half Shire sells these books that they have bought as well as many that are there on consignment from the various places that have published them.

If you have a question about the area, history or genealogy in general, there is usually someone hanging out somewhere in this building that has at least an idea of where to find the answer for you. All of them are volunteers that enjoy this type of thing. My husband and I hung out at the tables talking with friends and people we met there for most of the day on Saturday.

As I said in the beginning, I was neglectful in not writing about this earlier. The fair concluded for this year yesterday. However, it will be back again next summer, so keep an eye out for the dates and plan to attend. This building is a great addition to the Oswego County fair and I wish other local fairs would start something like this as well!

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