upon a time, long before today's boring, repetitive, loud and often dumb TV advertisements,
armloads of unwanted junk mail and irritating phone calls, there was a subtle
and entertaining form of advertising called a fair. |
The first official
state fair is thought to have been in Michigan in 1849. Of course, the largest
state fair is in Texas each October.
Texas State Fair Grounds|
Postcard courtesy www.rootsweb.com/ %7Etxpstcrd/
|Smaller town, county
and area fairs are held annually across the nation. Most of these celebrations
offer exhibit competition. Livestock, food preservation, garden produce, art and
handicraft competitions are usually featured.|
The purchase, lease or donation
of land for a fairground was often the first community-wide effort of a vigorous-minded
citizenship. This was before the time when large structures were built for such
use. The use of taxes for such purposes was absurd. The great outdoors located
on property lying near a town proved to be the most economical answer for facilities
for an annual fair. A public water well and some privies were the extent of fairground
facilities. Even better, public camp grounds could accommodate those who stayed
Texas Company, Texas State Fair Exhibit"|
1912 Postcard courtesy www.rootsweb.com/
The subtle part
of the community fair came in the form of advertising new products offered by
local merchants and major manufacturing companies. Poor transportation, slow communication,
large numbers of rural families who seldom came to town left many ignorant of
the many newfangled gadgets invented to make life and work easier. Printed advertising
was costly. To show their products, they needed people, the more the better. They
needed a way to attract people, and the fair seemed to be the answer. Most who
attended a fair came away knowing much more than they knew at arrival. Many had
one of those new gadgets in hand as they left. If you had no money, you were still
entertained and learned about products.
manufacturers used fair exhibits to the maximum. The best photographs of displays
are in "The Windmiller's Gazette," published by T. Lindsay Baker of Rio Vista.
Many displayed windmills
pumped water from wells dug on the fairground for demonstration.
equipment manufacturers also used local fairs. Horse-drawn implements were demonstrated
on the fairgrounds, and later, tractors were shown plowing nearby leased farm
ground. Some companies loaded flat railroad cars with new implements and had them
parked on the sidetracks adjacent to fairgrounds ready for delivery.
the greatest reason for attending a fair was to escape the drudgery of hard farm
life for a few hours; eat something besides pinto beans and cornbread; see something
colorful and shiny instead of dust and rust; buy, sell or trade something you
made or raised; and there was always the chance of meeting someone more interesting
than your siblings and neighbors. Many a lifelong romance began with a chance
meeting at the local fair.
Trew - "It's All Trew" April
12, 2011 column