GIANT THREE-COUNTY FAIR HERE A REAL SPECTACLE
By JUDY JENKINS
Unless the compilers of a book describing Henderson's Tri-County Fair of 1905 were exaggerating, this county once was the setting for the largest fair in all of Kentucky.
It was a consolidation of the fairs of “three of the largest and richest counties in the state: Henderson, Webster and Union. Each county is admitted on equal terms to all the departments, and no one county is made more prominent than the other.”
The attractions were spectacular. The thick fair book noted that during the September 26-30 event, $5,000 “will be spent for race purposes, which insures a great field for horses, and some splendid races.” In addition, the book touted, ‘BIG PREMIUMS FOR FARM PRODUCTS.”
The promoters promised, “It will be an old-time fair, giving an opportunity for old friends and comrades to meet in great reunion. Excursions will be run on all railroads and steamboats entering the city.
“Splendid show rings. An interesting Floral Hall. There will be something going on all the time – no tiresome waits.”
Besides all that, the book reported, “The management is now in correspondence with some of the highest priced special attractions in America.”
The fair price seemed reasonable, 35 cents for adults, 15 cents for children between 5 and 12 years of age, and all tots under 5 were to be admitted free.
Showing charitable hearts, W. S. Grady, president of the fair, and his board agreed that the first day of the extravaganza would be “Free Children's Day.”
Noting that “a great many families have a great many children,” and thereby were strapped for funds, the fair officials opened the attractions on that day at no charge to all children under the age of 15.
Kids could, it was reported, come early and stay late. “If you have any fear of them getting lost,” it was advised, “tag them.”
The next fair day was to be “Derby Day,” with horses entered from St. Louis, Chicago and Louisville.
Those who enjoyed meandering around exhibits could take in entries such as homemade “hearth rugs” and blankets, the best vegetables, handsomest bouquets, best cakes, biscuits and preserves, best lard soap, best “handkerchief case,” best crocheted “wristlets” and best china painting.
In addition, the finest livestock and poultry in the three-county area were on display.
Local merchants, realizing the fair would be a money-maker for all, bought advertisements in the “Catalogue Tri-County Fair.”
The McMullen Hotel, for instance, reported that meals could be purchased there for 25 cents, while a room could be had for $1 a day. The N. B. Cosby Livery Company made known its desire to board the horses of fair patrons, and Saloon keeper Eugene Speirer invited all his “friends, horsemen” and fair visitors to come to his Paragon Saloon.
Among the labels carried by Speirer was Green River Whiskey, “The whiskey without a headache.”
Henderson's ex-chief-of-police made it known through a large ad that he had opened a “first class saloon and restaurant” at 130-132 Second Street.
“The captain has fitted up 12 nice rooms over his saloon, and a restaurant for the traveling public and his farmer friends,” the ad stated.
“The captain is very popular among the farming class, and it is admitted by all that the ex-chief gives more for the money than any man in Henderson.”
Progress Edition, The Gleaner, Saturday, April 24, 2004
Contributed by Netta Mullin, HCH&GS
Copyright 2005 HCH&GS