In January, 1908, Clarence B. Wilson, a newcomer to Aurora, had the idea of staging an
agricultural show. He talked on the subject with Edward Chambers, a local businessman and chicken
fancier, William Ketcham, a prominent Dearborn County farmer, Joseph R. Houston, the public
school superintendent, Adam Hill, a wharf-boat owner and local coal merchant, and William
Hoskins, a manufacturer. Thus was born the first Aurora Farmers’ Fair and Indiana’s oldest street
At that first fair, no rigs or teams were permitted on Main Street or Second Street. Extra
hitching posts were erected in other sections of town to accommodate the visitors. A ladies rest
room was placed in the Neff Building on Second Street. Exhibit entries were accepted by
Llewellyn E. Davies, fair secretary, and all were displayed out in the open where they could
easily be seen. Long tables, constructed of trestles and boards, were placed in the gutters at
the edge of the brick and cement pavement on both sides of Second Street from Bridgeway to
Judiciary Streets. J. C. Wright and sons performed this task. The day of the first fair dawned
warm and pleasant, and huge crowds swarmed into town. Horses and buggies, two-horse wagons,
surreys and spring wagons, people on horseback, and a few in single and double cylinder
automobiles all made their way to Aurora. From Kentucky and Ohio they came, from Switzerland,
Ohio, Ripley, Jennings, and other counties they came, over roads thick with dust to where the
huge event was staged. The old Aurora ferry, which was powered by two horses, which walked a
treadmill to turn the paddle wheels, worked overtime that day.
And it continued.
Clarence B. Wilson was chairman for the second fair. Edward Chambers was elected chairman, for
the third fair, by the Aurora Business Men’s Association. In 1912, Robert L. Johnson was elected
president of the Fair Association, a position he held until 1959, with the exception of two years
when William Neukom and T.J. Martin held the office for one year each. In 1940, a building on
the riverfront was purchased from the Indianapolis Chair Company, and all exhibits were housed
there. Prior to this, exhibits were placed in the old tobacco warehouse on Exporting Street. As
the years passed, concessions were brought in to form a midway on Second and Main streets. Stage
shows providing the finest inn entertainment were added. A huge street parade has continued to
be a featured annual event. In 1958, there were over 25,000 people in attendance, with over
1,600 exhibit entries, twice the number a half century ago when it all began.
In February, 1959, the Aurora Business Men’s Association invited the Aurora Lions Club to
assume sponsorship and management of the fair. The invitation was accepted, and continues to
this day. In May, 1969, the Aurora Lions Club purchased the former Aurora Casket Company office
building at the corner of Second and Main Streets to house all exhibits and a fair office. The
building was tragically lost to arson in July, 1997. However, construction of a new facility
began in the summer of 1999 and was ready for the 2000 fair.
The Aurora Lions Club pledge to continue the Farmers’ Fair and their service to the community.