Recalling Main Street fair days

Since we were trying to remember what the Marion County Fair was like when it was downtown in the old days, I was curious about when it moved to the present location at the fairgrounds.

According to ?Hillsboro, Kansas: City on the Prairie,? written in 1985 by Raymond F. Wiebe, the new grounds were developed between 1959 and 1963, so I suppose that?s about the time the location was changed. I was impressionable during the years it was downtown, so the memories are lasting.

The book reports that stock-car races and pony races were organized in the late ?30s with crowds estimated at 35,000 people.

The ponies were local horses and the stock cars raced in a pasture ?near town? with only a snow fence to protect the spectators. Reportedly, the event generated a large amount of dust.

I wasn?t here in the ?30s, and have never heard anyone talk about those races. I?m curious if anyone remembers what went on and could clue me in about it.

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One thing I do remember about the fair as a kid was the booster trips made around the county to promote the fair.

We rode with some of the city dads to all of the area towns to put up fair posters and such. The free pop and doughnuts were a nice touch, too.

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The fair also had a beauty pageant each year. The winner was crowned Marion County Fair Queen and was eligible to compete for Miss Kansas in Pratt.

My sister, Elaine, won it in the mid-60s, so we went to Pratt to take in the Miss Kansas event.

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Our church always had a food tent for raising funds. It was set up in the street just to the east of the church on West Grand. I think it did really well for a number of years.

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The commercial tent in those days was a big, long tent erected on South Washington. I think it went all the way across the intersection of Grand and Washington.

Here, you could see the new cars from all of the dealers and good deals from area businesses.

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The Free Press will be having a booth in the commercial building again this year.

We decided we will be demonstrating the new features of our current Web site, which we launched Dec. 1. But you don?t need to wait for fair time. It is available worldwide 24/7.

Each month we get traffic from every state in the country, with about half of it coming from Kansas.

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The fair was started by local businessmen Leon and Irvin Harms of the local creamery to promote the budding dairy industry in the county and the grand opening of their business. The first one was Oct. 27-30, 1931.

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If they ever get a time machine perfected, I would love to travel back and watch those stock car races. It must have been a wild time.

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I am working so hard these days it?s tough to get anything done. I?d be curious if anyone is working less and making more money now compared with 10 years ago.

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?If you come to a fork in the road, take it.? ?Yogi Berra

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