Have you been to the Ionia Free Fair before? In a way, this annual summer celebration’s roots go back thousands of years. The park space that hosts the event began as a seasonal agricultural spot for the Anishinaabe people. European-descended colonizers continued to use the attractive riverside space for farming and harvest festivals, later adding paths for rides along the Grand River’s edge.
It wasn’t until the middle of the 1800s that it became the site for “Michigan’s Greatest Outdoor Event,” celebrating agriculture and bringing families together in this same space the Anishinaabe prized for being an attractive and bountiful farming location. Learn more about the Ionia County Historical Society and the fair’s history in our Connections Along the Grand River magazine, coming out later this year.