The Juniata County Fairgrounds have more history than those who sit in their seats watching the race cars round the dirt track each Saturday night would ever think. You see, the fairgrounds have been used for much more than just car racing events through the many years it’s been in existence.
These excerpts from a very informative book on the history of the fairgrounds, “A Grand View of the Juniata County Fair” explains . . .
Horse racing prevailed at the fair from the very first year in 1853 through 1955 when it was taken off the program. But, in 1963, the program returned and is still on the ticket today.
Horse racing programs have differed through the years. As stated in the 1891 premium booklet, there were both runner [with rider on saddle] and trotter and pacer [harnessed] racing events. Several races were specifically for Juniata County-owned horses. Another race was held for horses that were without record and used exclusively for road purposes. Purses of $50, $125, $150, $200 and $250 were awarded that year.
Today’s events bring the winners much bigger purses [approximately $2,000] and are all harnessed attractions.
Racing changed significantly in 1938, when the first auto race was held on September 10th at Port Royal’s famous one-half mile dirt track. The gate admission was 50 cents and it also cost the spectator another 50 cents to gain a seat on the grandstand that year.
The original (wooden) grandstand building was removed November 7, 2000. The new (aluminum) grandstand structure was open for the first spectators on Saturday, May 26, 2001. A reserved seat season pass for the new grandstand is $25.00, plus the $12.00 general admission cost.
People came to see many other things at the fairgrounds, including all the entries and who had won the ribbons. Premium payments listed from the 1891 premium list were for the best: wine, 25 cents; fruits, $1.00 and leather made into ladies shoes, 50 cents. Stock animals are a very popular fair entry and at one time had been paraded in front of the grandstand. They are now shown and judged at the animal barn at the northwestern corner of the fairground.
Events in front of the grandstand have changed considerably through the years at Port Royal. Racing events (as well as) entertainment including political speakers, acrobats, balloon ascensions, vaudeville acts, Grand Ole Opry stars and rock ‘n’ roll bands have all performed in front of the grandstand for more than a century.
 [Photo reprinted from "History of Port Royal and Vicinity and Sesqui-Centennial Celebration Book]
 [Card courtesy of Barney Gray]
A Grand View of the Juniata County Fair, by Sheila McCarthy Yorks 2001, paperback, 25 pages, 15 illustrations and references.
To read more about the evolution of the speedway and events held in the fairgrounds, then and now, you can order a copy by mailing your name, address and a check for $5.00 plus $1.50 postage to: Sheila McCarthy Yorks, RR1 Box 884, Mifflintown, PA 17059 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org