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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Times change and fairs evolve

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Here are three old Marcus fair booklets from the years of 1894, 1944 and 1948. It provides interesting reading giving a history of past fairs and how impoirtant they were to many area residents. Photo by Nancy Hohbach.
At a recent morning coffee, several Marcus gentlemen gathered around to discuss the many changes that occurred over the years with the running of the Marcus Fair. Fred Wilkens brought in three copies of former fair books. Each brings a sense of history in reading through them.

The oldest copy is really a reproduction of the fair book for Sept. 18, 19 and 20, 1894. That's right, 1894. It contained information on the premiums and purses for the Cherokee County UNION FAIR which was held in Marcus. It was noted on the inside cover that this was the sixth annual exhibition of the Cherokee County Union Agricultural Society.

Some of the director names are familiar around the area such as Barnes, Forbes, Nagle, Means, Knox, Hinkley, Earnest, Niemann, Gregg, Beck, Gund and of course, Smith. In the articles of incorporation, the first items noted that the event was to be held on the 13th day of September. The purpose of the event was to promote the development and improvement of agriculture. The place of business of the society was to be at Marcus where all the exhibits and fair shall be held. They had six directors who could serve for two to three years,

Entries were to be made the day before the fair. Any product from the soil had to be entered in the producer's name. Entries of artistic products had to be entered by the artist or mechanical skill entries had to do be done by the contriver. All animals had to be entered by the actual bona fide owner. All animals entered must be properly recorded before they are assigned a stall.

No one could be a judge if they had an entry in the fair. The judge would designate first and second place. There was no mention of third place.

Convenient locations were offered for stalls, sideshows and games at prices ranging from $5 to $25 according to size and location.

Suitable stalls and pens for stock were furnished during the fair at the following prices: for double stall horses $2; single $1; for cattle: double stalls 75 cents; single 50 cents; sheep and swine were 25 cents each. Hay and straw would be furnished at convenient locations to renters without charge.

All fast riding and driving within the enclosed area was strictly forbidden except by the direction of the society.

A single ticket of admission was 25 cents; children under 14 paid 15 cents; children under 8 years old got in free. A saddle horse or team and vehicle must pay 25 cents. An amphitheater ticket cost 15 cents. A season ticket for the three days cost $1 and was not transferrable. Same horse or team was $1.50. A vehicle hauling passengers for pay had a $5 fee. Members who owned one stock of the Union Society got a free ticket.

The main events (listed first in the book) were horses beginning with standard bred trotters; Cleveland Bay, French and other Coach breeds (imported or native); Clydesdales; Percheron; shires; French Draft; Grade draft horses; general purpose horses; Sweepstakes rings of Percheron and French draft, Cleveland bays and other coach breeds; grade drafts, Shetland ponies, horses in harness and last but not least, special premiums of colts.

Much focus was given to horses. Horses were the heart of the event.

Horses were followed by cattle (Shorthorns, Jerseys, Red Pollen, Polled Angus, Hereford, Holsteins and lastly, fat cattle. Swine was listed next with Poland china first followed by Chester White, Berkshire, Jersey Reds and the sweepstakes. Next came sheep followed by poultry.

For a machinery show, buggies, carriages and other vehicles were on display to be checked out. A building provided a spot for displays of pianos and organs, coins and taxidermist talents. Also somewhere in the building, one would find millinery for men and women, tinware items for sale were popular, harnesses, cutlery tools and shelf hardware, marble and bronze works were for sale.

No fair was complete without corn and other grains competing along with many hearty vegetables. One had to have a display of a half bushel of potatoes, tomatoes, carrots, beets, turnips and rutabagas. An exhibitor needed to have three cabbages or squashes as an entry. To enter a melon, you needed two for competition. For some reason, one would only need a plate full of apples or grapes.

Jelly and jams were popular items. Homemakers would compete with various kinds of fruit butter such as apple, plum, grape, pumpkin and tomato. They also canned fruit and vegetables plus 10 lbs. of butter or a gallon of syrup or 6 lbs of more of cheese. It's hard to believe they would can butter or cheese.

Baking was also a popular competition including yeast breads and rolls, cakes and cookies.

I imagine every farmer's wife had a piece of fancy work to enter whether it was embroidering, crocheting, knitting or tatting. They were into beadwork or creating something neat out of corn husks to try to earn a ribbon. Quilts were a big hit back then too.

Folks also enjoyed fine art whether done in pencils, oil or water coloring. Many talented individuals competed. Ladies put flowers together to make a neat display for competition. There were several prerequisites for the entry the judge used to make their decisions.

One of the neatest ideas was having children bring schoolwork to be judged. The division was broken down into ages. It could be numbered work or something a child had written. Even maps were considered a very worthy entry.

By 1944, the Marcus Fair was a two-day event. This was the eighth annual Industrial livestock show. World War II made an impact as on every other page there was a word of encouragement for folks to buy war bonds.

They had entry fees ranging from 25 to 50 cents. Entries needed to be in place the day prior to the fair. All stock was shown at owners' risk. Horse judging was the first day; cattle judging the second day. Exhibitors had to feed their own livestock.

They still had 16 classes for horses to compete in and two classes for ponies. No stallions were permitted. There were three classes of baby beeves followed by swine in three classes: Spring board; Spring gilt and a litter of four.

Poultry followed which included chickens, turkeys, geese and ducks.

Grain competition included barley, oats, flax, rye. Grasses and forage were also an important showing. Soybeans from the previous year competed with a peck on display.

Common vegetables competed: beets (6 in a bunch), cabbage (2 heads), carrots (6 in a bunch), cucumbers-ripe (3), slicing 6), pickling (12), egg plant (2), kohlrabi (6), onions-various kinds (half peck), parsnips (6), pumpkin (2), tomatoes lg.(5) and small (12), hubbard and all varieties of squash, watermelons were welcome plus all kinds of potatoes. Just had to be sure who raised them.

It was interesting to find they had a kiddies' parade with trikes and doll buggies as well as bikes, pets and hobbies.

Corn had a special place of its own. Brands competed against brands.

They had a classy flower show. Professionals competed as well. Women competed making special arrangements for kitchen, living or dining room. They also had dried and fresh bouquets. Amateurs and children also got into it if they liked.

No fair is complete for the ladies without fancy work and sewing. It was quite an extensive department: embroidery, crocheting, tatting, knitting, afghans, quilts, rugs, pillows, aprons, pajamas and so forth.

Four years later, they had set up chairmen for 20 committees. It included cattle, Saddle horses and Shetland ponies, poultry, corn, grain and vegetables, industrial tent, grounds and concessions, swine, music, doll buggy and pet parade, flowers, baked goods, canned goods, fancy work and sewing, stage committee, lights and sound speaker, announcer, ball games, finances, livestock judging and parade and publicity. Many became quite active making the fair grow into a three and then four-day event.

It was quite entertaining to go back and read all of the ads in each of the three books. Times just keep on changing. Whether it is always for the good is debatable. Some of their ideas may be good to try again.

The Marcus fair begins Thursday, Aug.9 through the 12th with a free gate as it has been done for many years now. There will be plenty of animals, exhibits, entertainment, activities and a carnival for all ages.

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