It took more than a hundred years, and the naming of a fair historian in 2000, but the Sandwich Fair now has a history museum.
The one-room museum on the fairgrounds opened for the first time during the 2011 fair, and will welcome visitors at the 125th Sandwich Fair, Sept. 5 to 9.
“This has been in the works for a number of years,” said fair historian Joan Hardekopf. She credited fair association board member Wiley Updike, who served as board president for several years, with championing the museum.
“There were always other priorities. Finally, last year the board decided it was time,” she said.
Even the building is historic; it once housed the fair secretary’s office.
“The board put in new windows and doors. This is not an all-season building, but the museum is only open during the fair,” Hardekopf said.
The next task was to collect items to display in the museum. The fair board had a large collection of historic items stored away, and even more have been loaned or donated.
The glass display cases that line the walls include things like premium books, registration books, photos, collectibles sold and given away in years past, and so much more. A “timeline” shows some of the highlights and changes in the fair through the years. A small TV mounted in one corner will play a DVD of scenes through the years around the fairgrounds.
Hardekopf said she has a limited number of the DVDs available for sale.
She said a couple of raffles are planned, as well. One is for a basket of fair souvenirs and the other is for a packet of dash plaques from the fair car show. “The collection of plaques is not complete, but we are raffling a package of the duplicates,” Hardekopf said.
The raffle tickets will be available at the museum.
“One thing I really enjoyed is the penmanship in these old registration books,” said Judie Christenson, pointing out a book from 1902. For some reason, the registrants also listed their marital status.
The museum also has a copy of a large coffee table-style book about the fair, written by Hardekopf. Thumbing through the pages, she said she asks people to sign the book near mention of their name or their photo.
Last year, Hardekopf said about 2,500 people signed the guest registry in the museum.
“There was probably 50 to 75 percent more that didn’t sign the book,” Christensen said.
“So many people make the Sandwich Fair part of their summer travel plans,” Christensen said.
Sandwich Fair Museum
Where: Sandwich Fairgrounds, 1401 Suydam Road
Hours: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sept. 5 through Sept. 8; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sept. 9.