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Norton Drive and I-190 northbound entrance ramp, Worcester.

The former entrance to the Worcester Agricultural Fairgrounds is now the entrance ramp to Interstate 190, next to St. Gobain (formerly Norton Co., which purchased the land sometime after 1941).

The entrance was the site of the infamous Ku Klux Klan rally of 1924, but also more than 40 years of that institution's celebration of agrarian life, the agricultural fair.

It was the third such site in Worcester.

The first fairground, from the early 1800s to sometime in the 1870s, was near the Common in downtown Worcester. It requires a stretch of the imagination to picture the Common area playing host to a tomato competition and a parade of chickens, pigs and cows, but those animals would have been able to walk from some nearby barnyards in the early 1800s.

The second agricultural fairground in Worcester was located near Elm Park, where it endured until around the turn of the century, when the fairgrounds moved to a site in Greendale.

At that location on Indian Lake, long before the I-190 cut through north Worcester, there was a horse-racing track, and all the space needed for a full-blown agricultural fair.

In its early years, the agricultural fair was a kind of holiday for workers; in more recent years, it has become a way to help connect modern folks who might live a life far from the agriculture that sustains them with the agricultural present, and reinforce some pride in our agricultural past.

To those who mourn the dwindling of farms and farming, the substitution of manufacturing abrasives for the agricultural fair grounds might frame a fitting -- yet melancholy -- metaphor.

-- Melissa McKeon

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Title Annotation:Local
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Oct 27, 2014
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