The History of the Butler Farm Show, Inc.
Compiled by LeeRoy Miller
Updated by Ken Metrick
“It began with a plow and grew into a family tradition.”
In 1947 a plowing contest was held on the Jack Roe property in Meridian. This was the birth of an idea to get the city folks, businessmen, and farmers together to better understand one another. Some farm organizations sponsored the educational program. The idea was so well received that it was decided to form an organization to keep the event alive. The organization became the Butler Farm Show, Inc., in 1948.
A constitution and by-laws were written, with the aid of the Butler County Extension Service, by men interested in supporting the county youth through the 4-H clubs and Vocational Agricultural Division of the Future Farmers Association. Several lawyers were interested enough to donate their services. The by-laws were designed in such a way to insure that no one person or group could ever gain complete control or benefit financially from the Farm Show. All income is returned for payment of debts or improvements. All directors are unpaid and volunteer their services in many capacities.
The board is a diverse group coming from agriculture and agri-business, as well as non-agricultural areas such as industry, education, finance, and business. They work hard all year to plan and implement the Farm Show exhibits and entertainment.
As acreage became available, several tracts were purchased, and at present over 100 acres are owned by the Butler Farm Show. About 12 years after the founding of the Farm Show, the grass airstrip on the grounds was replaced with a 2,200 ft. black-topped airstrip, which was named in honor of W. L. Roe, who contributed a great deal to the Farm Show. The Meridian Fire Co. food stand (now known as the restaurant) was built the same year.
The Farm Show has steadily grown through the years. In 1956 the land was cleared for a 3-1/2 acre lake; this was part of the long range plans to make the Farm Show grounds a year-round recreational area. The Agricultural Building was constructed that year, adding 12,000 sq. ft. of indoor space for exhibits. In 1958 three permanent barns were added (now used for dairy exhibits), providing nearly 18,000 sq. ft. for year-round use. In 1977-78 the horse and sheep barns were completed and in 1984 the beef barn. In 1984 the American Heritage Showcase began. It has grown into one of the largest displays of antique tractors, farm equipment and other items of yesteryear at any western PA fair. Other improvements over the years have been the beautification of the main entrance, the horse show arena, paved roads, the water system, the restrooms and an improved arena track and pit area. In 1989 and 1991 two 60’ x 120’ exhibit halls were built adjacent to the lake for more commercial displays.
An additional 5 acres of wooded land at the southern end of the airport runway was purchased in 1993 with the help of a grant from the PennDOT, Bureau of Aviation. Many on-going repairs and upgrades to buildings and roads continued each year. In 1994 the CB Rangers building (located at Gate 1) was purchased for use as a permanent office. It was totally remodeled and a new-clerical/premium office was constructed inside the structure. In 1995-97 the present grandstands and pressbox were constructed in phases as funding became available. Also, in 1995 a new milking parlor and milkhouse were built at the dairy complex. This addition made it possible for visitors to view cows being milked as well as the bulk cooling tank where milk is stored until it is shipped to a dairy. An all-weather auditorium pavilion with a permanent stage was built and a smaller shelter and stage for variety acts was erected near the home-produced products/arts & crafts area.
The years to follow saw many improvements to the Farm Show. A permanent rabbit barn was built in 1998. Space was leased for a cell tower to be erected, giving some additional annual income, and a few years later, a second tower was constructed. One of the biggest projects for the Farm Show was the construction of a large permanent office complex to house offices for the United States Department of Agriculture. A long-term lease was signed and a relationship was formed with the USDA, providing another source of year-round income. Both restroom facilities were totally remodeled and updated to current code in 2004 and 2012. The Agricultural Building was renovated, and the dairy barns were outfitted with new siding and tilt-out windows. New roofs were also put on the dairy barns and Ag Building. Both campgrounds were expanded, adding both water and electric sources. The Meridian Fire Co. Building was another structure that was totally renovated. With the acquisition of a new tenant, the building is now a full-service, sit-down, air-conditioned restaurant during the annual Farm Show. Electric poles and access panels are constantly being upgraded as needed. The first step of computerization began in the premium office in 2002, and as of 2014, all aspects of the Farm Show, including finances, were completely computerized. To better aid the vendors and exhibitors, WiFi was added on the grounds as well. New air-conditioned ticket booths were built for all 4 public entrances and both grandstand entrances. In 2014 a permanent ticket booth was constructed at the main entrance. This structure also housed the security quarters and the first aid office.
The Butler Farm Show has, and always will be, a “family show” as long as there are dedicated directors, members and volunteers, and faithful exhibitors and patrons. Today, as in 1947, our goals remain the same. As the torch is passed to each generation, the values of our founders are instilled in them. All involved persons strive to educate each other as well as visitors in a productive and entertaining manner, so that farm, city and business people may gain a better understanding of each other’s way of life.