Jane Phillips: The spectacular Kinston fair of 1915 -- Part 4
The first day of the Kinston Ten-County Fair had arrived. The fair parade ended when it reached the race track and the crowds began to fill the fairgrounds. Excitement was in the air. The big attraction that day was the Honorable William Jennings Bryan, a very famous man at that time.
He was known as being a great orator with a voice that was distinct and could radiate throughout the crowd. Historian R. Cornelius commented, “Bryan could speak without shouting to thousands without any means of amplification.” He had run for president and had served with distinction as President Woodrow Wilson’s Secretary of State.
Bryan and other dignitaries began to make their way to the large grandstand that was next to the race track. As Bryan began to speak with a style that captivated his audience, he was fervent in his speech on the war in Europe, and questioned if the United States get involved. It was a hot issue of the times. He was well-received. There were other speakers, but Bryan was the man of the day.
The main features of the fair were the exhibit buildings, the livestock barns, the grandstand, the race track and the midway. In between these features were booths with many operated by churches that provided food for the fair-goers and it was said to be as good as you could get at home. Others sold novelties of various sorts.
The exhibit buildings were full of various exhibits of amazing displays. Within the exhibit halls, there were sections for health, education, agriculture, manufacturing, flowers, antiques and other items. All buildings were locked, lighted and guarded at night. Precautions were taken to prevent any fires or thefts.
Judges had been selected from around the state for their expertise in the field that they were to judge. Hundreds of ribbons were awarded and placed on the winning items on display.
The Public Health Department of the State Health Board provided the latest information on diseases, treatments and care. Orion Knitting Mill demonstrated the process of hose manufacturing and showing the finished product. Oettinger’s Furniture Store showcased a handsome display of a tasteful red parlor suite.
Caswell Training School for the underdeveloped child had two young ladies whose mental ages were 7- and 10-year-olds, demonstrating tatting and other sewing skills.
The girls always had a big smile for the visitors. They gave the institution a living example of the benefits conferred by this facility. In the Victrola booth was the Kinston Cycle Company playing music at intervals. In that day this was a real novelty as many did not have the means to have music played in their homes.
The largest display offered a fragrant and beautiful collection of floral arrangements. The colors were a wonder to see as they spread over a large area of the building. One very credible display was 60 varieties of canned fruit and vegetables. This exhibit had already won a blue ribbon at the State Fair as they did at this one. A large portion of a center aisle had canned fruits and vegetables and agriculture products from hay to peanuts.
The antique department’s exhibits were quite large and interesting. An old-fashion loom worked by a venerable lady attracted much attention. The gentlemen were enticed to the old guns display and items from the Civil War by the appeal of the subject matter.
The Kinston Cotton Mill had an exhibit of modern village life giving the public an insight into what life was like for the millworker’s family. There was a splendid array of school exhibits in the education section of the exhibit hall. Schools from throughout six of the 10 counties had on display the miscellaneous works of its students. Work from kindergarten to teacher training were displayed. Wednesday had been designated School Day at the Fair.
It was reported that 5,000 children attended the fair that day; they came from all over North Carolina and admission was free for them. Many teachers accompanied their students. J.Y. Joyner, Superintendent of N.C. Public Schools was present giving nods of approval at all the displays of children’s work.
There were many other exhibits at the fair. The fair committee had thought the exhibit buildings would be plenty big for all the exhibits but proved not to be. It was crowded. They knew they would have to add more space the following year.
The fair visitor could spend many hours with great pleasure in these buildings. The livestock barns were the favorite of the farmers and many children. There were dozens of cow and horses and scores of hogs and chickens. Oxen and mules were also on display.
The Krause Midway was a big hit with all ages. There were 10 clean high-class attractions free to the public and meant to attract people to the midway. Bringing thrills to the crowd were Billy Klein, world’s champion high diver, who climbed a 90- foot ladder and then dived into a shallow pool of water.
Another thrilling act was Prince Nelson, “Wizard of the Air,” with his high wire act. Rides included the delight of the Ferris wheel ride, giving riders a high-up view of the fairgrounds. The adults, as well as the children, enjoyed the magic of the merry-go-round.
The fair organization was very proud of its racetrack and had several events taking place on it daily. Different types of horse racing, paces and distances were performed. There were harness races. People from distant places came to race their horses. The purses for winning were very satisfactory for the times. There were also mule and oxen races.
Kinston’s first annual fair ended as a splendid success. Newspapers around the state lauded the Kinston Fair as the best or one of the best. Some put it on the level of the state fair. It was remembered as the magnificent fair of 1915.
The above photos are not of Kinston but merely used to give an idea of what the fair may have looked like.
Various articles from the Kinston Daily Free Press printed in 1915
ATTEND THE LENOIR COUNTY FAIR 2018 NOW THRU OCTOBER 27th.