Spartansburg folks enjoy celebrating. Parades, carnivals, dances, dinners, picnics and gatherings of all sorts have been reported since the late 1800s in the busy borough. Carnivals and parades were often held to mark the opening of a new business, for example the opening of the Edwards Woolen Mill in 1898, and the opening of the Grange National Bank.
So, it is no wonder that 158 years after the establishment of Spartansburg as a town, we are still celebrating.
The Spartansburg Fair is Born
The main celebration time for us is the Spartansburg Community Fair- in 2014, the 93rd Fair. While several fair-like events had been held, sometimes more than once in a summer, the official start to the community fair was in 1921. The first several years of the event were focused around the school and included demonstrations and speakers bringing educational topics to the community. These articles from the Titusville Herald report on the events and happenings from that first “official” community fair.
Note the last lines of this announcement:
Continuing in that tradition and expanding to include more displays and entertainment, the Board of Directors for the fair planned events to happen yearly, sometimes in October, then moving to September. Advertisement of the event in local papers as well as the desire to reunite with friends and family helped the fair to continually grow.
Since this event was defined as a school-based celebration, many educational speakers and demonstrations were a part of the early fairs. In 1921, speakers arranged through Penn State offered sessions including:
“Community Organization for Farms” by Professor WV Daniels,
“Bigger Yields of Corn and Potatoes” by Professor Schultz,
“Better Farm Homes” by Miss B. Lillie,
“Profitable Dairying” by Professor Ohmsted, and
“Farm Bureau Organization” with County Agent Sprout.
Other entertainment included demonstrations made by Vocational students on topics including: culling poultry, testing milk, mixing fertilizer, home nursing, cutting and fitting (sewing) and canning.
Information from the state entitled. “Pure Milk for PA” was presented at the Grange Building using a Stereopticon and a small fee was charged to see the pictures. (More info about the Stereopticon)
1923-School displays were joined by commercial businesses. Supplee Wills Milk Company and Tauber Mills Woolen Mill each displayed information and demonstrations of their businesses.
In 1927, the first fair”book” was printed.
Highlights of succeeding years include:
In 1929, the first parade was held as a part of the event and the dates were moved into September. Some of the previous fairs held in late October experienced snow and ice storms that prevented people from attending and caused events to be cancelled.
In 1929, a realistic teepee was constructed on the grounds-provided by Professor Ralph Blakeslee.
In 1930, the first Ox-Roast is advertised and the fair is expanded to 3 days.
These shots are from the 1939 Fair Parade.
Highlights Over the Years
1931- Contests at the fair included cracker eating and a whistling contest-the winning lady whistled for 40 minutes without stopping (according to news reports)
1932-A baby clinic was added by Dr. Earnest and sponsored by the Crawford County Tuberculosis Society who provided exams for children up to those entering school that fall. The new cattle barn (built on the school grounds) was first used that year.
Horseshoe pitching, chicken catching and whistling (same lady won again) were contests featured on Saturday afternoon in 1932. The Accordion Gypsies entertained.
The Fair Association became incorporated with a state charter in 1933. The Board consisted of: RV Shreve-President, Charles Torry-V. President, JA Whitney-Secretary
In 1937, the first Merry-Go- Round and Ferris Wheel appeared at the fair. The first mention of Bingo-sponsored by the Spartansburg VFD appeared in the Titusville Herald article following the fair.
Flower Picture booths (probably like the current Shadow Boxes) were very popular additions.
In 1938, a parachute jumper attempted to land on the grounds- he overshot, but landed safely in a nearby field.
“Open Day and Night” was boasted in advertisements for the 1939 fair.
No fair was held in 1943, the only year since the start of the event that it has not been held.
Fireworks exploded over the closing of the fair for the first time in 1946, there was a horse show, and rides.
Commercial exhibits were added at the 1947 event.
Carol Rogers Staskiewicz was crowned the first Sparta Fair Queen in 1949. Prizes for the Grange and Community displays were added ($20, $10, $5) A greased pole contest was held with the prize of $5. Needle threading, Pie-eating, Nail Driving, Pillow Fight, Husband Calling were other contests that year. Guy Fish presented a tractor display.
In 1951, Water Battles were staged with a prize of $60.
In 1952, a brief history of the Spartansburg Fair was printed with the Fair Book.
Gambling and money wagering games were rejected by the Directors in 1954. Bumper signs were added as advertisement pieces.
The 1961 parade was assigned a theme that floats should use.
The Spartansburg Fair Association joined the State Fair Association in 1965.
Over the years, the fair had received state aid to help pay premiums for award winners. In 1968, the fair was required to expand the fair to 3 days of no less than 6 hours each, so adjustments were needed in start times for the event. Also in 1968, the need for additional food concessions gave way to the opening of the Spartansburg Auxiliary Food Concession.
In 1969, fair exhibits were accepted the day before the official start of the event, expanding it to 4 days.
School classes provided options for soothing hunger at the fair. One of the options, the Pronto Pup, was offered by the Junior or Sophomore classes. The Pronto-pup company is still in business and providing franchises. The original owners started the business in the 1930’s and sold it in 1950 and that family still has ownership. Check out these websites: http://www.cooksinfo.com/pronto-pups and http://www.prontopup.net/