The 200th year of the Topsfield Fair


Audrey Fusco

Aerial view of the fair at night

Erica Luo, Oliver Tymann, and Ariel Greenberg

On September 28, 2018, the North Shore’s favorite seasonal attraction opened. For many, the Topsfield Fair signifies the beginning of fall. As you walk in, the smells of fresh apple desserts, pumpkins, and hay fill the air. Thrilled screams ring out as the rides whoosh by and faint mooing can be heard from the barns. Crowds of people test their luck at the game booths, and children laugh with delight, taking in the kickoff to fall.


According to their own website, the Topsfield Fair is the oldest agricultural fair in the U.S. The fair was founded by the Essex Agricultural society to “promote agricultural interest.” It has been around since 1818, and this year marks its 200th anniversary. Traditionally, it closes on Columbus Day and opens 10 days before the holiday.


The fair has been evolving ever since its opening, adding new attractions and events. In 1841, for example, beekeeping was promoted at the fair, showing how honey is made. In 1921, electricity was installed to make the venue even more vibrant.


One of the main events at the fair is the giant pumpkin competition, which began in 1984. Over the years, the pumpkins have broken many world records, and the fair is the home of the first one ton pumpkin. As reported in a recent Salem News article, there were 23 pumpkins in this year’s competition. The winning pumpkin weighed 2,114 pounds, breaking the 2016 record of 2,075 pounds.


The Topsfield Fair hosts over 300 vendors, mostly selling food. Ye Olde Pepper Companie is the longest continuously running vendor at the fair, selling old fashioned candy and treats, like fudge, Gibraltars (the oldest candy made in the US), and molasses sticks. Other delicious options at the fair include funnel cakes, caramel apples, turkey legs, and fries. Some people just go to the fair to indulge in the delicious fall treats!


In addition to food, patrons have a variety of rides to choose from. There are family friendly rides, like the carousel and the Ferris Wheel. Thrill seekers can test their courage on the Freakout, the Seven Seas and the Zipper.


Animals are also a special feature of the fair. The poultry barn is a big hit, including award-winning geese, ducks, chickens and hatching chicks. There is also a feeding area for cows and goats.


The Topsfield Fair has an attraction for almost everyone, and is a treasured tradition in the North Shore. Although it is now closed, people are already looking forward to next year!

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