Past Times

Getting geared up for the 1941 NC State Fair

In 1940, judges Miss Addie Houston and Mrs. Annie Lee Harris, along with State Home Demonstration Agent Miss Ruth Current, survey some of the state fair entries.
In 1940, judges Miss Addie Houston and Mrs. Annie Lee Harris, along with State Home Demonstration Agent Miss Ruth Current, survey some of the state fair entries. N&O Photo

There’s a change in the air, and before we know it, it will be time for the N.C. State Fair. Even now, a whole crew of people is working to get the fair ready for us. In 1941, writer Louis H. Wilson described the flurry of activity around the fairgrounds.

North Carolina’s perennial “boom town” – the State Fair – is rapidly blossoming into a city of “education and entertainment” where hundreds of farmers, exhibitors, and showmen are laboring tirelessly to make the 1941 exposition … “the best balanced exposition in the history of the State.”

Hundreds of North Carolinians won’t wait for opening day; they’re at the fairgrounds now, wandering over the acres occupied by the exposition, which is expected to attract more than 200,000 people before closing Saturday at midnight.

Some folks will never see the men who have the job of running the fair – a lot of folks don’t much care. But off in some secluded corner there’s a little group carefully recording every entry in the educational departments. There’re the 4-H Club boy and the Future Farmers of America members caring for their cattle. There’s a lady in the office to help find the little boy or girl who “got lost.” There’re the electricians, the decorators, and the nightwatchmen, the ticket takers and the barkers. They, and many more, put the “great” in the Great State Fair.

Every jar of preserves, every ear of corn, every member of the great family of livestock will be in place for the opening day. Modest and retiring, Mrs. John S. Jones, who lives near Raleigh, won’t admit to you that she’s played a prominent or even a small part in the “program of preparedness” that precedes every fair. It’s her pleasure to keep track of every exhibit, from a tiny picture to a draft horse. In her office the checks are written for the prize hen and the big County Progress Exhibit, and she is custodian for the 6,500 or more ribbons that the John Does will win. Hers is the “Entry Department,” where the winners and the losers are registered by half-dozen or more able hands who work and build what is now known as “a great State institution,” paramounting agricultural, industrial, and educational exhibits.

There’re a lot of the “Joneses” and “Smiths” who make up a State Fair. They’re busy building for the enlightenment and entertainment of others.

W. Kerr Scott, Commissioner of Agriculture, heads the great family of “Joneses” and “Smiths” who have given North Carolinians the past four educationally and financially successful fairs, as a division of the State Department of Agriculture. …

Becoming the first Commissioner of Agriculture to operate a fair that has returned a profit to the taxpayers, Scott has shared credit for whatever success the exposition has enjoyed with Dr. J. S. Dorton, who has been the State Fair manager since 1937.

“Tireless, conscientious, able and alert, Dr. Dorton has given North Carolina the best of his talents, and his leadership has been a dominating factor in each of the educationally and financially successful expositions for the past four years,” Commissioner Scott comments. “We are fortunate that the amusement and educations features of the fair come under his direction, for he has felt the public pulse and knows the prescription that will satisfy the most discriminating fair-goer.”…

While agriculture, industry and education will again be paramount, care and discrimination has been exercised in selecting the midway, grandstand, and other fun and thrill attractions for the 1941 exposition.

Max Linderman, with 40 years behind him in the amusement business, will occupy the midway, which will have 22 rides and 20 shows.

“The World of Mirth Shows,” under the direction of Linderman, as general manager, is known as “the world’s largest traveling amusement company.” Bringing new, interesting, funny and pretty faces to the fair, Linderman’s productions have not disappointed wherever they have been seen, and his return engagement to play the State Fair has been listed by Dr. Dorton as “one of the balance wheels of a well-rounded exposition.” The N&O Oct. 12, 1941

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Leonard: 919-829-4866 or tleonard@newsobserver.com

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