Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Saline County Fair Caused Tensions Between Towns In Late 1800s

It's county fair time again.  The fair is a great event that is enjoyed by many in our county and surrounding area.  (Click here for the fair schedule.)

But in years gone by, the fair was a source of tension in our Saline County community.

According to a loyal Times' reader ("History Buff"), Saline County’s first fair was held in October 1872.  There were 280 entries and 700 in attendance. 

The first fairs were held in Crete, in an area near present-day Crist Auto Body on the west end of town.  Key attractions included horse races and orators. Dorchester’s Ed McIntyre was treasurer of the Fair Board; nine of the judges at that first fair had Dorchester addresses.

By 1887, the fair was reported “better than ever,” but receipts were not enough to pay expenses.  

Meanwhile, Dorchester was busy preparing to host an area reunion of Civil War veterans. By May 1888, Dorchester leaders were so optimistic about the preparations that “a number of citizens from the vicinity” went to a meeting in Crete to propose moving the county fair to Dorchester. 

The Dorchester Star reported that “after ridiculing Dorchester in every conceivable manner for insinuating such a thing as having a fair, the meeting adjourned to see if Crete could raise $2,000 to keep it there.”

The June 1888 veterans' reunion was a huge success. There were grandstands, platforms, pavilions and tents and a crowd "estimated between 1,500 and 15,000." (Yes, we realize that is a big gap in the estimate.)  By July of 1888, W. P. Thompson purchased the ground in northeast Dorchester where the reunion was held. (Soon after, the parcel came to be known as “Thompson’s Rodeo Grounds.")

Meanwhile, the September 1888 County Fair at Crete was fraught with problems. The 1889 county fair was held in Wilber, then Crete and Wilber alternated for several years until 1900.  There were no Saline County fairs held again until 1925.  (Friend hosted a variety of fairs and racing meets during this time, and also hosted a Junior Fair from 1919 to 1921.)

The Saline County Fair was revived in October 1925 on Linden Ave. in Crete.  The following year there were exhibit tents at Tuxedo Park.  Gradually special show buildings were erected at Tuxedo; the Thompson ponies from Dorchester provided rides and shows; and rural schools built special floats for parades. 

The rest is history.

*** Fair Highlights From Years Gone By ***

  • In the ‘30s and 40’s, Lillian Vlcek (Rezabek), Bertha Dusanek (Zak), and Jerry Pracheil were rural students winning prizes for posters and penmanship. Harold Krivohlavek and Rudolph Freeouf showed 4-H livestock. Mrs. Albert Boden and Mrs. Stanley Nohavec brought embroidered pillowcases, and later still, Dorothy Feeken entered the hog calling contest.
  • There’s a photo at the Saline County Museum of the Dorchester Chamber of Commerce parade entry. Herman Schultz, Mike Broz, Ed Spinar, Bill Sanburn, Leonard Pechoucek, Harry Spacek, and John Kenny donned fake moustaches and derby hats, while Frances Spacek and Merle Schultz stand by with long black dresses and Japanese fans. A 1929 Buick pulled a trailer for the musicians, and they all smiled for photographer.
  • In 1963, it was reported that Anton Tesar drove a 1917 Buick parade entry. The Buick had "9,000 miles on it and original tires."


  1. Isn't it funny how history lives on or repeats itself? Example: Crete ridiculing Dorchester.

  2. I would be very interested in the Civil War reunion. Are there any records of the reunion? If so, where are they housed???

  3. ................I miss the good ol days ................. when carnies gave me two rides for the price of one ......................................


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