Presented by the Laurens County Historical Society, Dublin, Georgia. For questions and information, please contact Scott B. Thompson, Sr. at dublinhistory@yahoo.com.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

A FANTASTIC FALL FAIR


THE 12TH CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT FAIR, 1912

In the early decades of the 20th Century, there was no more fun time, no more important time or no more anticipated time than fair time. State. District and county fairs were the people's favorite time of the year. With most of the crops in the barns and the gins, the rural people, the farmers and the merchants who sold them goods, could pause for a week, relax, and have a grand of' time. Before it was over, more than 20,000 people would come to the autumn festival.

Following the 1910 Census, Lauren's County found itself in the 12th Congressional District of Georgia. It was the practice in those days for every Congressional District to stage its own fair, centered in the largest city within the district. Dublin, being one of the largest cities in the state in general, was selected to host the very first 12th Congressional District Fair, which took place a century ago this week.

Building off the foundation of the county's first fair in 1911, the organizers of the 1912 fair set out to show off Dublin and Laurens County to the entire state. Peter Twitty, Jr., who would go on to become Mayor of Dublin and Georgia's Game and Fish Commissioner, served as President of the 12th District Fair Association. Twitty was aided by Capt. W.B. Rice, J.B. Type, and Vivian L. Stanley, who served as vice-presidents along with other vice presidents hailing from the eleven-county district. Newspaperman Frank Lawson, gleefully counted the bulging receipts and carefully watched the expenses. Local promoters proudly hailed the fair as the largest of its kind in the state with the exception of the State Fair in Macon, which took place a few weeks later in October.

To draw a crowd, the fair's organizers planned an abundance of events, not to mention the $3000.00 in cash prizes. Three things would always produce people; food, fun and politics.

The fair opened on Tuesday, October 8 with short addresses by President Twitty and other community leaders. Farmers, the main focus of the fair, were saluted on Wednesday, Farmers' Union Day. With the fear of the dreaded boll weevil on their minds, a large crowd gathered in the Laurens County Courthouse to hear addresses by Lawson E. Brown, State President of the Georgia Farmers' Union and J.A. Evans, a Federal government expert on the boll weevil. Congressman Dudley M. Hughes, of Danville, a farmer's congressman if there ever was one, disappointed all when his schedule didn't allow him to appear before the large throng of farmers.

Thursday, the 10th, was, well, "Fun Day." Horse races along a half-mile straightaway along a major city thoroughfare were the highlight of the day. The races were so well attended that the horses and their riders were hampered because of the crowds spilling onto the race track. The nucleus of the fair was located on the site of the current day Farmers Market. An all day sing featured the best of local singers entertained the crowd. Many of the best fiddlers in this part of the country gathered and rosined up their bows in one of the city's first Fiddler's Conventions.

The fun continued on Friday, when all kids got out of school to attend the festivities. Of course, their parents came too. And, of course, the parents were the targets of the politicians. Thomas E. Watson, a perennial Populist presidential aspirant, told the gathering just what they wanted to hear. State School Superintendent, M.L. Brittain was there to promise everyone that he would make all the schools in the state better and soon.

John M. Slaton, a former appointed Governor of Georgia, appeared in hopes of being elected in the following election. Slaton was elected, but saw his political career collapse when he pardoned Leo Frank, who was coincidentally was represented by law partner.

To top off the next to the last day of the fair when an estimated 5,000 people swarmed all over the city, all of the prize winners were announced. By far and without a doubt, the best jelly maker was Mrs. J.W. Horne, who proudly walked away with four blue ribbons in all four jelly making categories. Mrs. B.H. Rawls claimed the title as Queen of Condiments for her zestiest catsup and briniest pickles. Mrs. E.H. Langston and Mrs. S.H. Cook were the superior seamstresses of the fair.

Agricultural exhibits and competitions were integral parts of fall fairs for decades. The Emanuel County Boys Corn Club walked away with the grand prize with their record of 57 bushels of corn produced per acre at a handsome profit of $40.97 per acre.

There were poultry and livestock exhibits and of exhibits of nearly every crop one could imagine. Most exhibits were allowed free of charge. But in order to help pay the bills, a charge of 10 cents per chicken and 50 cents for hogs, sheep, goats and cattle, and $1.00 for horses, mules and mules were levied. W.W. Robinson and D.W. Gilbert displayed the finest in agricultural equipment and implements from their respective hardware stores. It will be remembered that it was Gilbert, who created the idea for the county's first fair in 1911. Each county in the district put on display showing off what was best in their communities. Houston County walked away with the Grand Prize of the 12th District Fair.

Baseball fans in the crowds were treated to play by play, inning by inning reports at the Telephone Exchange as the Boston Red Sox, jumped out to 3-1 game lead over the New York Giants, Interestingly, the second game of the series resulted in a 6-6 tie, causing an 8-game World Series.

To make the atmosphere a lot livelier, Dublin's highly heralded brass band, fresh from the magnificent performances representing Georgia at the previous two National Confederate Reunions, entertained the crowds daily.

The District Fair came to a climax on Saturday, October 12, on Dublin and Laurens County Day. The day was set aside for one last great day of fun on the Big Midway.

Although an aero plane could not be secured, thrill seekers were treated to several balloon ascensions. A young and somewhat fearless daredevil leaped from the balloon, pulling his parachute at the last possible moment.

The fair came to end with a dazzling fireworks show. The crowds went home, counting the 360 days until the fair of 1913, which would be even better.

But, it was in those days, in the twelfth year of the 20th Century, when the envious eyes of the citizens of Georgia were focused on the 12th District Fair, our fair, a century ago this week.



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