Fairs and annual fairs have been around in America nearly as long as it existed
While traveling carnivals with rides and games and such are an invention of the late 19th century, annual festivals in America with their own bizarre traditions and rituals that didn’t quite catch on appeared as soon as people had time not dying of smallpox to party. The first Mardi Gras happened literally right when the explorers Iberville and Bienville got off the boat in what became New Orleans in 1699. They pretty much staked their claim and declared, “This will forever be the spot where many ruinous hangovers, awkward morning conversations, and incriminating photos will occur.”
Even earlier, the Pocomoke Fair is considered the earliest American annual city fair, originating in 1641. It was held in Old New York, which was once New Amsterdam. Why’d they change it, we can’t say. People just liked it better that way.
Colonial American city fairs and festivals were more of the “harvest festival” variety than what we would think of as a carnival now. Like, hay rides and stuff. Were hay rides ever fun? Why did people think hay rides are fun? It was a much simpler time back then.