Column sent to Frederick Leader and Frederick Press
September 7, 2009
County Fair in 1953 was ‘Biggest,’ ‘Best’ Ever
The Tillman County Fair is always a special event, but in decades past it was a production that attracted and involved most citizens from throughout the county. The 1953 Tillman County Free Fair was advertised at that time as the biggest and best ever.
The county fair in those days was held at the Frederick Municipal Airport southeast of Frederick. Plans were underway that year to construct the Tillman County Fair Barn on South 8th Street which would become home to the county fair in future years, but in 1953 and the years preceding it, the county fair was held on the grounds of the former Frederick Army Airfield.
The 1953 fair ran for four days – Tuesday, Sept. 8, through Friday, Sept. 11, and folks from Frederick and communities throughout the county were encouraged to attend every day! The fair was organized and hosted jointly by the Tillman County Free Fair Board and the Frederick Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
During the run of the fair, the Frederick Chamber and Frederick merchants put up special decorations downtown and Frederick businesses ran special fair sales and promotions.
As a prelude to the county fair, during the preceding week community fairs were held at Grandfield and Tipton with parades and the start of competitive showing.
A September 1953 article in the Frederick Leader described the fair as follows: “The greatest Tillman County Free Fair in history will unfold Tuesday for a four-day run at the municipal airport grounds near Frederick, and by Friday night all attendance records for the annual exposition are sure to fall. The outstanding entertainment and recreation program for all time has been arranged to back up fine exhibits in all competitive departments of the Fair.”
Young people from throughout the county brought livestock and poultry for judging, and young and old alike entered their best crops, baked goods, canning, sewing projects, floriculture, and crafts. The event was a genuine Tillman County exposition.
All available commercial exhibit spaces for the fair were booked in advance. Many county businesses and organizations had exhibits, drawings, and items for sale at the fair, and the event showcased the latest models of farm equipment, in addition to new Chevrolets, Fords, Chryslers, and all other kinds of automobiles.
Numerous politicians visited the county fair, but the key speaker at the fair on Wednesday afternoon was Sixth District U.S. Congressman Victor Wickersham. Wickersham, from Mangum, discussed national issues and legislation that related to rural Oklahoma.
Huge draws at the county fair were performances of four high school bands: the Frederick High School Bombers, the Tipton High School Tigers, the Grandfield High School Bearcats, and the Boyd High School Wildcats.
The Leader said of the bands, “Directors of the four fine bands have been serving a dual need since start of rehearsals this fall – preparing for opening of football season and special work on a series of concert numbers for the Fair appearance. Each of the four bands will give generous concerts at their scheduled appearances and their attraction will add to the already promised crowds preparing to throng the exposition area.”
A wide variety of contests and demonstrations were slated at the fair. They included boys hot rod races, girls doll dress contests, amateur talent contests, demonstrations by the Frederick Fire Department and the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, and a thrill show by the Motor Maniacs.
Each evening of the fair featured special entertainment. Tuesday night’s performers were Dixie Boy Jordan and the Stamps Ozark Quartet.
Wednesday evening’s entertainment was the George Niccols Magic Show.
Thursday evening there was a big square dance with Billy Mitchell and his band.
On Friday evening the fair concluded with a giant fireworks display.
Registration for prizes was a huge attraction. The 1953 prize list was billed as the biggest ever, with $225 worth of groceries to be given on the first three nights, with “thousands of dollars worth of premiums on tap for Friday night.”
Frederick’s Fire Department held a raffle for a 21-inch television set – a major prize in 1953.
The John S. Kerr Post of the American Legion gave away a pony.
The most exciting part of the fair for young people was a fair carnival. The Big State Carnival, a large, established traveling carnival, was contracted to operate during all four days of the fair on the airport’s concrete, “all-weather midway.” The carnival featured rides, games, cotton candy, bright lights, and lots of fun.
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Joe Wynn is a member of the Tillman County Historical Society’s board of directors. He can be contacted by e-mail at email@example.com.