County Fairs Have Changed with the Years; Take, for Instance, Mansfield's Annual Event
By ANNE BALDWIN KAYZER
Sunday Telegram Correspondent
IS THE small town Fair that once attracted metropolitan crowds for miles around, and which held the undivided attention of its patrons for nearly a week at close of the summer season, losing its appeal to this present generation ?
Not entirely, of course, the oldest Fair in the Northern Tier of Pennsylvania, and one of the most interesting of its kind to be held anywhere, the Mansfield Fair in Smythe Park continues each year to attract crowds of spectators and visitors whose only contact with one another during the year is apt to be on this special occasion--- a gay and festive reunion.
But it is true nevertheless, that interest has waned materially in Fairs and the Smythe Park Association finds that, whereas only a few years ago the fair was still a four or five day success, the attractions seem to hold out these past two or three years for two days at the longest. Receipts too, have not been as promising in the past two years as formerly. This fact has been a source of some anxiety to the association, which each year has doubled its energy to try to find outstanding attractions which will modernize the present day fair and attract a larger number of visitors.
"Times have changed," is the usual all embracing explanation of what has happened to this very wholesome and enjoyable annual occasion. Like many other pasttimes which once held allurement for the majority of people, the fair may have to be relegated some day to that quaint category of the old fashioned.
THERE ARE many still living who remember as a child the early days of the Mansfield Fair when excursion trains pulling a dozen or more passenger coaches and bearing excited crowds to the scene of this jovial celebration, pulled into the very entrance of the Fair grounds. These trains of the Erie Railroad brought visitors from many distant towns, including New York State, and picked up many more along the routes. Some arrived on the early morning trains and returned that evening, but there were countless others who arrived to stay for Fair Week, and the hotels and boarding houses were filled to capacity.
All roads too, in those days led to this center of attraction, and by opening day, one section of the Fair grounds was a great arena of carriages with lines of horses tethered face to face at long hitching posts. Every conceivable kind of conveyance was on display from the plebian spring wagon which carried an extra number of passengers to the ground victoria discharging elite occupants.
BUT ONE AND all whether they came to the Fair to display their biggest pumpkins, or just as interested spectators---they all had the time of their lives. Amusements in those days were simple and usually of their own making with local talent often filling the bill in a wholly satisfactory manner. To be sure, there were outside attractions too, but those events occupying the main building and the adjoining buildings marked "cattle," and "horses" where exhibits held sway, were ever popular. The family turned out en masse and there were attractions for all.
THE ONE feature of the Fair which attracts visitors today as it did in the old days is the opportunity it affords for friends and even relatives to meet at this time of the year and exchange greetings. It is an occasion looked forward to the year around.
Today's Fair must be an ingenious device indeed to attract the attention of all, both old and young. A generation accustomed to being amused every night in the week whenever the whim arises must have an extra amount of inducement to attend this annual gathering, and so today the Fair has graduated into a show of major proportions, alive with concessions, and carnival features, baseball games and odd, strange and curious shows. The small race track surrounding the fair grounds now is merely an entrance way for the autos ; horse racing of so modest a nature was "out" several years ago.
This year the Smythe Park association has engaged some major features for the 62nd consecutive September Fair. Sept. 11, 12, 13, and 14. Topflight performers who have appeared at Madison Square Garden have been booked within the past month for the forthcoming event next fall. The association bids this coming season for one of its biggest years and has strived to enlist the interest and support of its many patrons.
One of the best known jugglers will be featured, together with the four Cartier sisters whose acrobatics are said to be the best in the entertainment field today.
A group of 26 young women known as the "Mavellettes" will appear in a dancing number and there will be a skit entitled "The Haywagon Rubes" featuring the three Daileys. The program also includes several comic numbers which always have a great appeal.
Last but not least, the Fair will close on the final evening with its usual array of fireworks, always the grand finale of this particular fair which has become a famous spectacle, and attracks much admiration and interest. The committee has spared no expense this season to make the Fair as great an occasion as possible.
PERCY A. COLES is president of this lively and alert Smythe Park association, Vice president is Reuben E. Cleveland ; Treasurer, C. W. Ross and Secretary, Frank H. Marvin. The Board of Directors includes: Harry Kingsley, George Dyer and Herbert G. Peterson.
Mr. Marvin has been secretary of the Fair association for a number of years and has watched the trend of the Fair from its early days. A member of the Legislature at Harrisburg for four years, Mr. Marvin has lived in Mansfield since 1913 having come here from Antrim. His home is adjacent to the Fair grounds entrance, the former home of the late Dr. Smythe, a Mansfield physician who gave a small parcel of land at the Smythe Park entrance, and after whom the Park was named.
ORGANIZED IN 1879, Professor Fordyce A. Allen, then head of Mansfield Normal School, had much to do with the early beginnings of the Fair association. His picture now occupies a place of honor in the Association's offices at the entrance. Other originators with Mr. Allen were J. S. Murdaugh, Bertin Schrader and Mart King.
First officers were President, Mart King ; Vice president, P. V. VanNess ; Secretary, C. S. Ross and Trustees ; Phillip Williams and D. H. Pitts. The association was originally a stock company, with 117 shares of stock sold at $25 a share and issued in 1885. Farmers and others from out of town put in $25 worth of labor on the grounds.
The beauty of this little Park as it was laid out in its early days is still kept in its original state, and enhanced from time to time with improvements by the keen group of Mansfield citizens who form the present association, an association determined to keep the Mansfield Fair a modernized unit to meet the present day demands and so perpetuate its existence.
|1913 Mansfield Fair Ticket
Sent in by Don Stanton