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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Gray Matters: Celebrating the Marcus Fair

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The highly successful Cherokee County Fair has just ended and the Marcus Fair begins on August 13. Surrounded by these and so many similar events, I'm inspired to make some observations. In the first place, I think it's great that so many Class and Family Reunions are being held during this special August weekend here in Marcus.

It will make it so convenient to visit with friends and kin while enjoying the festivities.

But about the Marcus Fair, I believe I am correct in stating that it is the only fair in Iowa still solely supported by one town, rather than being a county-wide event. That, plus the fact that no admission is charged, makes it really unique. Two, the roots of the Marcus Fair are deeply embedded in our town's story.

Celebrations thanking a benevolent deity at harvest time have been recorded since the beginnings of history, so it is little wonder that our founding fathers established one. We are told that the first such event, an actual countywide harvest festival, took place in our town before any other was held in Cherokee County.

The fair's modern incarnation, then called "The Colt Show," was activated in 1936 by a group led by Rev. C.W. Samuelson. It has taken place annually since that time. Rev. Samuelson's name has been immortalized by the present-day Memorial Awards. Pastor of the Swedish Lutheran Church, he was a man of remarkable leadership abilities.

There were no buildings on the fair grounds, so everything took place in rented tents. A local feed dealer sent a truck to Sioux City to pick up the tents well before dawn on the first day of the fair. Then they were raised by the town's business men, spearheaded by the Rotary Club members.

Mildred (Mrs. Art) Nielsen who cooked the weekly lunches for the Rotarians, was enlisted to prepare a hearty breakfast for those workers who also constructed temporary tables for the fair exhibits. To spare the cost of an extra day's rent, those tireless guys would stay on after the last evening's performance to dismantle the tables and take down the tents, often working into the wee hours of the morning.

Rev. Samuelson was involved in almost everything but the announcing. It was the stentorian voice of the late Evan Quirin that sounded across the grounds in those early days of public address systems. The fair often concluded with a delightful Home Talent Show on its third and final evening, but that, too, is another story.

Over the years, as a part of the Marcus Fair, there have been horse shows, tractor pulls, beauty contests, commercial talent, as well as demolition derbies, and on and on. But still, at the center of it all, are the exhibits of livestock, field crops, produce, canning, baking and flowers.

Yes, at heart, our Marcus Fair, and all of the area's similar events, are still direct descendants of those ancient rituals of Thanksgiving for Our Creator's Benevolent Blessings. May we never forget that fact.