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Important News

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Important News

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The history of Mason county's fairs goes back to the 1870's when the Mason County Fair association was organized. From that time until 1898 successful fairs were conducted by the association on the site of the present Oriole field. Exhibition buildings, barns, a large grandstand and track were constructed on the land which was purchased from the Pere Marquette Lumber Co. some of the finest trotters in the county were brought to the fair with the races of 1893 being one of the outstanding turf events

Many of the pioneer residents of Ludington were active in the association including John Sherman and Jacob Meisenheimer., both of whom served as president. J.G. Ackersville was secretary of the association and recalled that for many years the fair showed a profit.

The buildings were finally torn down in 1902 or 1903. The second county fair staged in Mason county was sponsored by Amber Grange in 1906. The last fair in that series was held in 1931 in Ludington at Culver park. From that year until 1936, there was no county fair and the county board of supervisors became interested in seeing the annual event re-established. Opportunity was presented when, in response to a promise by Michigan Bureau of Aeronautics that an aviation landing field would be constructed by the state and WPA if the county furnished a suitable site, the board authorized the purchase for $5,000 of the 185-acre Wing farm on U.S. 10 two miles east of Ludington.

Establishment of a fairgrounds and airport side by side on county-owned property was envisioned at the time. the board met with members of the old fair association and organized a new group to launch efforts for establishment of a new county fair. The association went further and organized the Western Michigan fair and had it so officially termed in articles of incorporation.

Fair Officers

Officers of the association, who with their committees and general public co-operation successfully staged the first Western Michigan fair on the new site two years ago were; George Tyndall., president; T.H. Fisher, first vice president; John Houk second vice president; Fred Schoenherr, Third vice president; Fred Reek, fourth vice president; Fred Lagesen, secretary and E.M. Briggs, treasurer.

The grounds have been greatly improved with numerous buildings being erected in the three years that the present fair has been in existence. Efforts are being made to make the fair a district fair or at least a Tri-County fair. The Amber Grange was sponsored by that organization for five years. The first four years the fair was held for two days each year and in 1910 the first three-day fair was held. Exhibits grew as name of the fair spread and farmers, merchants, industrialists, housewives and 4-H club members sent items to be exhibited ranging from prize bulls to jars of strawberry jam and lace doilies.

From 1912 to 1931 the fair went along in entirely satisfactory manner and each year saw increased and finer exhibits. Increasing attendance evidenced growing interest among the county's residents. Ludington and Scottville merchants closed their stores for one day each year during the fair and schools were closed one afternoon so merchants, clerks and children would have opportunity to attend.

The site was unchanged for 25 years until 1931, when it was thought larger space was desirable so the fair was held in that year at Culver park in Ludington. Due to several contributing factors, most important of which was the severe economic depression which reached its height in 1931 and 1932, no fair was held in Mason county from 1931 until 1936, when the first Western Michigan fair was launched.


By Mrs. Frank Barclay

The history of fairs in Mason county dates back to 1870, when a county fair was held under auspices of Mason County Agricultural society at the grounds around the Pere Marquette Lumber Co. in Ludington, and even then an interesting exhibit was shown, cattle barns having been erected for the livestock and buildings for showing farm products. It has been told that about $80 were the proceeds of this fair, which continued for a few years.

In 1877 Mason County fair association was formed, about $6,000 raised and the fair grounds, now Oriole field, was purchased. Barns and exhibition buildings were erected, a grandstand being a new feature. The exhibits were for the most part farm produce, with farm machinery being a part. More attention was given to the entertainment which included pulling contests by both men and by horses, various stunts were featured and horse racing became a big feature.

Flight of Balloon

Those who remember the early fairs recall the thrill which came with watching the balloon man begin the inflation of the large balloon, always a feature of the fair. Then the thrilling cutting of the ropes, when the big machine rose into the air, and only surpassed when the man or woman in charge let loose the parachute and began the descent. Few accidents happened although one was threatened when the parachute lady came near landing on Lake Michigan, and another time a rope caught the stove used to hear the air for the balloon and it was carried part way into the air.

Bowery dances were held in gaily decorated buildings, erected for that purpose and made attractive with boughs and flowers. These fairs continued until 1898, but during these years also, a fair was held at Scottville on the grounds now occupied by the Stokely Canning Co. plant. Here also successful fairs were held for a number of years. Special stress was laid on the educational feature at the Scottville fairs, Mrs. David Falconer recalls that her school was represented by Oscar Prettyman and Bert Borton in a school program. Mrs. Falconer was then Ruth Bishop, Mr. Prettyman now lives in Muskegon and Mr. Borton in Detroit, and their school was Jones school in Amber, now closed.

David Falconer, probably now one of the best authorities in early history, explained that a fair was held in Scottville in 1882, on grounds south of the railroad tracks near where the Buckmaster garage now stands. In 1883 it was moved to the fair grounds, now the canning factory grounds. He said there was a race track but it was small and not too successful.

After a lapse of about 10 years, or in 1906, a fair was established at Amber grove. The late Charles Gowan pushed this fair from the beginning and served as president for many years. George Conrad, David Falconer, L.C. Towns, John Conrad, Daniel Hammett, Frank Noyes and Louis Chinnery were among others who gave much time and effort to make the Amber fairs successful. All of these men, except George Conrad and David Falconer, have since died, but few who visited the Amber fair can forget the many hours and days of this a pleasant event in the years work.

Amber hall was over-crowded with exhibits, beautiful fancy-work, food products and farm produce. It became necessary to add tent after tent to house exhibits and stock. One new feature at this time was the grand showing of automobiles, which were then just coming into their own. The slogan "Every premium paid," was carried out for the entire 25 years which the fair continued. The fair had the fine cooperation of the entire county and men from every part of the county assisted the local directors in bringing the best, to be shown. The late G.H.D. Sutherland, then owner and editor of the Ludington Daily News, took a keen interest in the fair.

In 1931 it was decided to take the fair to Ludington where it was held for several years at Culver park. Lack of interest and adverse seasons caused it to close until 1936 when the pre­sent Western Michigan Fair association was formed and the present location selected. It will be hoped that nothing now will hinder its growth and that it will continue to grow each year.

4-H Exhibit It is hoped that visitors to the fair will pay special attention to the 4-H club exhibit. This work, now so nationally recognized as one of the important sources of improvement in the state and country, has been carried on in Mason county for a number of years, and many of the successful farmers and homemakers of the present time owe their interest in home and farm to the work of the 4-H clubs.

Mason county has ranked high in the number of clubs and the excellent work done by the boys and girls. The yearly exhibits have brought out hundreds of garments made by the girls, hundreds of cans of fruit prepared for the home and large numbers of attractive and useful articles for the farm and the home, made by the boys.

Stress is laid on quality of work, rather than quantity, and in this way the youngsters learn to know "how" and "why" these things should be done. In this direction, the training in judging is an important part of the work, so that the club never knows not only how to do a thing, but how it can be done the best and why each step is taken. Winter clubs stress especially sewing and woodwork, while around-the-year work includes calf, and pig clubs and, during the summer, canning and gardening clubs are prominent. Great credit is given to the men and women who give their time and efforts as leader and instructors, working under direction of the County Agent Harold J. Larsen, District 4-H Leader. Dan Andersen.

The 4-H exhibit at the fair will be worked in with the school exhibits when many new features of school work will be shown. New school aids will be exhibited and some outstanding work by the schools in health, conservation and new treatment of old time subjects will be displayed. The county library bookmobile will be on the grounds each day, with exhibits from Mason county, Ludington and Scottville libraries. Health exhibits will be an important part.


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