Jane Phillips: The spectacular Kinston fair of 1915 - Part 1
Outstanding leadership in Kinston made for a very active Chamber of Commerce in 1915. It was that year the Chamber of Commerce formed the Kinston Fair Association. After almost a year of planning, the fair was expected to bring 10,000 to 15,000 people to town resulting in much money being spent in Kinston businesses and placing Kinston in the spotlight.
A community spirit developed that brought the town’s people together in an excitement and commitment to make this auspicious event the best in the state. The fair was to affect everyone in town in one fashion or another.
Funds for the fair were being made by selling shares for $10 each. This was to be non-profit sharing with the funds going towards fair expenses. Everyone in town was expected to buy at least one share. The fair committee also went to the city council and county commissioners and got more funding for the splendid event they were planning. Much work was to be done to prepare for this grand occasion, such that Kinston had never seen before.
About 14 acres of the Abbott Farm was rented to be used as the location for the fair. This site was about a mile out of town going toward Goldsboro. That area of Kinston today is known as Fairfield because it was the site of the Kinston fair for many years.
It was decided that the Kinston Fair should become a regional fair and in total there were 10 counties involved (Lenoir, Jones, Onslow, Pender, Wayne, Greene, Duplin, Carteret, Pitt, and Craven). All were to provide agriculture exhibits of various kinds and volunteers where needed.
A major attraction for the fair was to be horse racing. Horse racing had been a favorite sport of Kinstonians since Gov. Richard Caswell allegedly had designed extra-wide streets in Kinston to accommodate horse racing. Alfred Cheney, a civil engineer, was hired to design and oversee the construction of a race track. Convicts were brought in to do the manual work. It was a ½ mile long. When finished it was one of the finest racetracks in the state. There were to be all kinds of races during the 4 days of the fair. The purses for winners was said to be substantial.
A grandstand was built for the crowd that would gather to watch the races and other attractions. A great hall was built where exhibits from 10 counties would be on display.
Roads leading to the fairground were reworked, and by opening day of the fair, they were in fine condition.
The railroad companies added extra scheduling for bringing people to Kinston from every direction. The railroad offered a special train from Snow Hill to Kinston. Its only purpose was to bring people to the fair.
Jitneys were to be used to carry people from town to the fairgrounds and back.
Promoting the Kinston Fair went statewide and planning for it was a real community project.
There were not enough hotels in town to accommodate the number of people expected to be coming for the fair. Word went out asking residents to open rooms in their homes to rent for fairgoers. The response was tremendous.
Security was upmost in the minds of the planners. The National Guard was to be used for patrolling the fairgrounds during the 4-day event. Extra police officers and detectives were hired. It was announced that public drunkenness and beggars on the street were not going to be tolerated and would be dealt with quickly.
A mass influx of people was expected to be driving into Kinston. Residents were asked to refrain from driving their cars around town and to keep them parked during the fair, so as not to create traffic jams.
It was decided to dress up the town. The city cleaned up the streets and sidewalks. Residents cleaned up their yards and some even painted their homes. Businesses joined in the process by putting up red, white and blue banners on storefronts. Flags lined Queen Street. Kinston was looking grand.
Finally, the day before the Fair arrived. All looked forward to the big parade that would take place the next day and kick off the beginning of the spectacular occasion.
Kinston Fair 1915 Part 2 continue in next Saturday’s edition of Neuse News.
Numerous articles from 1914-15 - Kinston Daily Free Press