Ozarks History

Information and comments about historical people and events of the Ozarks region and surrounding area.

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I'm a freelance writer specializing in the history of the Ozarks and surrounding region. I've written fifteen nonfiction books, two historical novels, and numerous articles. My latest books are Bushwhacker Belles, Wicked Women of Missouri, and Yanked Into Eternity: Lynchings and Hangings in Missouri.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

An Old-Time Small Town Street Fair

A lot of small towns in the Ozarks still hold annual fairs or festivals of one sort or another, and some of theme still have a bit of an old-time feel to them. But they're not quite like the old-fashioned street fairs and county fairs from the first half of the 20th century, such as the one that Weaubleau, Missouri, used to hold from at least as far back as the 1910s and continuing at least into the early 1930s. A look at the program for the 1928 Weaubleau Street Fair will give readers a flavor of what the old-time street fairs were like.
The three-day fair opened on Thursday, September 6 featuring music provided by the Weaubleau Band and a variety of other events and contests. A 50-yard foot race for boys 15 and under and a similar dash for men and boys over 15 kicked things off in the morning. Winner of the boys race received a dollar while the men's race winner got two dollars. The morning events ended with a reading contest for ladies, which yielded a $2 prize for the winner and $1 for second place.
The afternoon featured more music and a women's foot race. The day concluded in the evening with yet more band music and a performance by a man who did juggling and other marvelous feats.
Friday morning featured horse riding contests and a fat man's foot race. (No word on how fat you had to be to be eligible to enter.) There was also a driving contest. I assume this meant driving an automobile, but it might have meant driving a horse and buggy. The afternoon featured horseshoe pitching contests, one of which was reserved for men 70 years of age and older. There was also a declamatory (i.e. speech) contest for boys and girls. The day's events also included what was called simply a "pulling contest." I assume this was a contest pitting one person's horse against another person's horse to see which one could out-pull the other, although it might have been what we nowadays call a tug of war pitting humans against other humans.
Saturday was the climax of the three-day street fair. The day's events included livestock and poultry judging, a baseball game between Weaubleau and a neighboring town, more horseshoe pitching, egg races, a tug of war between attendees from Hickory County vs. those from all other counties, and, of course, more band music. The night events included the giving away of a grand prize (a new automobile), an old fiddlers' contest, more amazing feats, a Charleston dance contest, and a male quartet singing contest.
The Index from neighboring Hermitage announced the next week that the 1928 Weaubleau Street Fair had the largest attendance it had ever had and that a good time was had by all. Winner of the grand prize automobile was a man from St. Clair County who had held only one entry ticket.

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