WILMINGTON- I’ve come across a lot of great history about the fair including a few memories from some longtime fairgoers and volunteers.
Eugene “Rummy” Sullivan remembers after WWII when the American Legion Post had a concession stand. It was built in sections and they would put it up and take it down each year and store it at the Legion building, which is now Blue Mountain Produce. The building only had sides and a roof, no floor. It was located at the end of Floral Hall near the Baker Field sign. Diana Brown, another long time fairgoer and volunteer, can remember when her parents worked the concession stand with the Sullivans, Johnsons, Emerys, Brooks, and Boyds. All of the Legion members and their wives would work together selling hamburgers, hot dogs, baked beans, and home-baked goods for dessert.
Pony rides were another popular part of the fair. My mother, Florence Boyd Crafts, remembers her brother taking their family pony Trinket to the fair and giving rides. She also remembers Sandy Crawford taking her pony to the fair. Pony rides would later become obsolete at the fair because of insurance and safety issues.
Harriet Allen Maynard and her family have certainly been long-standing names in the fair. Harriet started exhibiting when she was 10 and started to volunteer at 18 by helping her mother, who was the head of the needlecraft department. She continued on and eventually was department head and a trustee. Records show her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Myron Allen, of Jacksonville, were very active in the fair dating back to the early 1930s. Their children and spouses became quite involved with the fair as well.
Harriet shared one of the “Where’s Bummy? I want to thank him” buttons that were worn the last year he was involved with the fair. Bummy (Allen) was Harriet’s brother. In August 1988, the new livestock building was dedicated as the “Allen Family Livestock Building” and Harriet said her parents were very honored.
Harriet came from a family of fair volunteers and married into a family of fair enthusiasts. Gram Buffum, as they referred to Pete Maynard’s grandmother, was very diligent in writing a lot of history down in her daily diary. I had a really hard time choosing just one memory she had written down. Titled “Farmer’s Day 1918” a noticeable feature of this wartime fair was the many samples of home grown grains: wheat, oats, and barley. The Deerfield Valley creamery had a fine exhibition in the midst of which stood the handsome cup presented by the Windham County creamery association each year to “the creamery being in the finest condition in every way.”
I don’t think there are many who can say they have volunteered for the fair for 66 years, but Stanley Cross certainly does qualify for that award. Stanley told me that he started volunteering with his uncle Roy Cross, raking out the pits for the horse pulling back when he was only 9 years old. The horse pullers used to be the farmers and loggers. A few names my mother remembers are Leon Carpenter, Roy Brown, and Fred Cook. Stanley told me professional competitors enter their horses now. Stanley continued to volunteer and has probably done just about every job there is at the fair but he never wanted to be the president. He told me the dairy end of the fair isn’t what it used to be but the horse show has grown over the years. The demolition derby has grown over the years, too, and brings a lot of competitors and spectators as do the truck pulls.
Diana Brown told me on the morning of the fair people would go down to the bridge at the end of Shafter Street to watch while the horses got weighed on the old scales that were across the street where Buzzy Towne Park is located today.
As a child the fair was the highlight of the end of summer for Diana and it was still being held either in September or October at the end of the growing season for exhibitors. Both she and my mother can remember when they would spend the first few weeks of school working on class projects to display at the fair. In earlier years they would even cancel school for the day so the students could participate in the fair.
No matter who I asked about their fair days, they all reiterated what excitement the fair brought to them as children. My mother said it was a huge fair when she was a child with lots of games and booths set up in the parking lot of the school. The anticipation of fair day was pretty exciting for everyone, and she can remember when the fair was canceled due to the horrific flood of 1938. She grew up in Whitingham and they lived up on a hill where there were no rivers. Her father went into town on fair morning while the children prepared for an exciting day at the fair. When he returned home he informed them the fair had been canceled because the roads were washed out and Wilmington had been hit hard.
Once fair day came around, Diana spent most of her time near the horse show or watching the horse drawing. She enjoyed going through the cattle sheds and seeing the different breeds of cows walking through the old gym, Floral Hall, and Haynes Hall to look at all the different exhibits.
Under the fair office is where you could always purchase some homemade doughnuts at the Couples Club booth and I can remember how yummy those were, too. I wonder if Diana ever thought she would be in the office above the doughnut stand one day, volunteering? Diana wasn’t much for rides as a kid but she certainly was a longtime dedicated volunteer of the fair for many years. Thank you, Diana.
Liz Wheeler was another long time volunteer with the fair along with her husband John, and eventually their son Will. They put in a lot of years alongside Stanley and Diana.
Steve Adams has kept the Adams name active with the fair. If you haven’t received a fair booklet yet be sure to get one and you can read up on the history of the Adams connection to the fair.
The Bartletts from Dover, Robinsons, Leon Boyd, Louie Moore, Matt Cole, Nicki Steel, Frankie Dix, Thelma and Deb Boyd, the Greens, and the Janovskys are all families and individuals who have volunteered. Kevin Aldrich has dedicated much time heading up the demo derby.
There’s a ton of other volunteers and groups of volunteers who have worked the fair over the years, from parking cars to getting the fair booklet out on time. I remember working the entrance booth with the Boy Scout troop and my son Nathan, then going on to help John and Will Wheeler with the music jam session held up in the cattle shed.
The Historical Society of Wilmington sold midway tickets for years out of the ticket booth on the field and worked the entrance booth for several years.
There were a lot of years when there wasn’t a fair held for one reason or another but Wilmington has had a fair of some sort since the mid 1800s, well surpassing the 100-year mark. This year while you’re at the fair from August 10 through 13, be sure to stop a volunteer and thank them for all they do.