A SHORT FAIR HISTORY
On July 1, 1911 a group of Orangeburg area citizens met at the County Courthouse to organize the Orangeburg County Fair. It should be stated right here and now that was not then nor is there now any connection between the Fair Association and the governing body of The County of Orangeburg.
These were all good and prominent men whose only desire was to bring the much needed education and entertainment along with recreation to our local citizens. There were no radios, televisions, and not even paved roads in our county. The only newspaper, The Times and Democrat, was printed three days a week, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Our people were hungry for the opportunity to gather together, display their wares and enjoy the fellowship at the center of our county. There were twenty-five men present and that group had already subscribed to purchase 715 shares of stock while the authorized subscription was 2000 shares. The total shares sold eventually reached 1588 shares and at that level all future sales were canceled.
Bylaws were adopted and directors were elected. One week later 20.65 acres of land were bought and buildings began to take shape. Ten days later an option on 12 additional acres was taken. Events were scheduled and as was the custom in 1911 the white people came to the fair on November 14th, 15th, and 16th. The Negro folks were allotted November 17 and 18th if they desired to hold a separate fair on our property. Prior to the first fair additional land was bought so a racetrack could be installed.
The first fair was held on schedule and the record shows that a net profit of $4032.00 was made. In the early years crops were grown on the grounds between fairs but the practice did not last through too many years.
In 1912 the board directed that the secretary secure a football game to be scheduled during the fair, incidentally football was a salient feature of our fair until 1961. The original secretary of the Association, A. H. Marchant, resigned before the first fair and was replaced by Probate Judge Jerry M. Hughes, who served until his death in 1970. Judge Hughes was a great lover of competitive sports so it was natural that we had football games during the fair. Also in 1912 a small residence was built on the grounds for a caretaker. The structure was moved at least twice before it was demolished. As early as 1913 it was recommended that Confederate Veterans be admitted free. That same year we had Auto Races on Tuesday and Wednesday along with Horse Races on Thursday and Friday.
In 1913 an award of $100.00 was authorized for the best 100 quarts Preserved Fruits and Vegetables prepared by the ladies of the county. That prize came incidentally, to a young lady, Miss Annie L. Smith, who later married John R. Fogle, the first Superintendent of the Poultry Show. Their union produced six children and the author was their third son. Our mother, “Miss Annie” as she was affectionately known was named Superintendent of the “Household Department” and continued to serve in that capacity for 60 years until she retired at age 90.
With agriculture being the livelihood of our economy during this period the Association began some interesting contests. There are 21 Townships in our county and we had Township competitions in setting up beautiful booths in the Main Exhibit Hall. The produce of their Townships were displayed, this contest had to be limited to four different groups because of space limitations. The competition was fierce and booths beautiful. Prizes $200.00, $150.00, $100.00 and $50.00 were awarded and that was a lot of money in 1914.
1914 was also the year that the South Carolina Association of Fairs was formed. Judge Hughes was one of the organizers. As early as 1915 leaky roofs were a problem. That same year $15.00 was donated to be used to make a Moving Picture of the Fair. Music has always been a part of any fair so our Association hired The Orangeburg Military Band to perform for the week for $175.00. It was noted that as early as 1916 that profits should be plowed back in rather than pay dividends to shareholders, that same year a Football game between Clemson and The Citadel was held. This we believe was the first College game on the grounds.
As early as 1916 there were proposals to build new buildings, so that the Fair might grow. However those plans were put on hold. The entrance to the Main Building was changed from the Westside to the Southside merely closing the two doors facing the railroad.
In 1917 an easement was acquired by the Southern Railroad so that a sidetrack to the “Packing Plant” could be built. This request was duly granted and the track was built. For some unstated reason, Judge Hughes, the Secretary tendered his resignation. There was no record of this resignation ever being acted upon. Until that year autos were not permitted on the grounds for fear of frightening the horses, so beginning in 1917 cars were allowed for a parking fee of $.50. In 1918 new steel cages were ordered for the Poultry Department. They are still in use today after 84 years of service. That year an operating surplus of $15,500 was on hand and an 8% dividend was paid to the shareholders. It is interesting to note that Mr. M. K. Jeffords the Midway Secretary (Concessions Manager) asked for a raise. This he did just about every year until he died. And though he was an integral and important officer of the fair, he never got all he asked for, nor was he never named a Director.
It seems that even in the early days there were people who thought that they were entitled to free admission. In 1919 the board agreed to hire an attorney to represent Mr. W. S. Tyler who had his teeth injured by the Slater Brothers, when they challenged him while Mr. Tyler was working at an entrance gate. Station in society did not grant free admission to fairs. Mr. Tyler was paid the sum of $50.00 for fixing his teeth and nothing else is mentioned about the matter.
In the early days a great amount of interest was shown in Patriotism Military Bands were a must. In 1919 Armistice Day, November 11 fell during the fair so all American Legionnaires were admitted free. That same year, the caretaker of the facility, who resided in a small house on the grounds died. It seems that after his death the board had some difficulty getting his widow to move. Eventually, however she left. Up until 1998 The Association provided a home for its caretaker. In recent years it has been a beautiful old two story home located on a corner of the Fair Property surrounded by huge, fine oak trees. Many insist that those are the oldest oaks living in Orangeburg. The age of the house is not available but the former owner, Mrs. J. Leroy Dukes, told the writer that she moved into it upon marriage in 1918.
In 1920 the membership voted to forego any dividends in the future and to plow back all profits into the facility. This policy continues until this day. We are now a non-profit association, receive no Governmental Aid, nor do we pay any local, state or federal taxes, we are tax exempt under the Federal Code-501-C5.
It seems that there was car theft as early as 1920. Following the very successful 1920 fair, the Board authorized a payment of $400.00 to buy a new Ford Automobile for Judge Hughes, the secretary, as his car had been stolen from the Fairgrounds during the recent fair.
Even in those days rain insurance was available. In 1921 we had $2000.00 of rain protection on each of these days. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday nothing in the record indicated that it rained that year, nor is there any indication that rain insurance has ever been utilized since that date.
One must realize that our fair has always adhered to the customs and mores of the community and in keeping with the times. In the early days of our fair segregation of the races was the law of the land. The Directors discussed at considerable length whether people of color would be admitted at night. It was decided that “Negros might be admitted at night so long as only a few attended and it was not made a practice there of.” Incidentally there has never been a problem of admitting folks of any color, in fact, one good citizen, a local colored undertaker, was an initial shareholder. There is no color difference in a dollar bill.
I might add that our local folks of African descent actually rented our facilities for a fair of their own for several years. They dealt with the same carnival which had been set up for the white folks fair the preceding week. This system did not work very well and was discontinued. Our Association was unable to collect its full rent for the use of the grounds.
In the middle twenties a group of these folks bought property and established their own fair on Ellis Avenue Extension. That organization ceased to operate some years ago.
Agriculture was always the foundation of the fair and in the early days we had competition in all types of farm animals. Many breeds of swine were shown, some of which are almost extinct. We even offered premiums on “locally raised colts."
It was 1923 before the directors decided to operate the fair at night until 10:00pm, with admission being lowered to half price at 5:00pm. You can imagine how that would affect the revenue today, we don’t start doing much business until after 5:00pm. As early as 1924 there were fireworks displays early night.
Automobiles were now overtaking horses the primary mode of transportation and Fords were the common autos in our area, Hence we had a “Ford Day”. That event consisted of a Ford Parade and Ford Races. Remember those were Model T Fords.
It might be noted that throughout the history of the fair, the management has attempted to provide the entertainment that the local folks enjoy. Football games were a highlighted event each year for many years. There was always a series of high school games as well as the “Big Thursday” games, Judge Hughes, the manager for sixty loved competitive sports and insisted on a full menu of football. The college games were held on Thursday and were truly the social events of the year. The men came dressed in fine suits and the ladies in their extra finery. This continued until after WWII.
It’s interesting to note that the first night High School Football game in South Carolina was played on our grounds, and among the players on the Orangeburg High School team was the late H. T. (Tim) Stroman who served many years as Treasurer and Secretary of our Association. The game was between Sumter and Orangeburg and I don’t remember who won.
In 1937 the annual Carolina-Citadel Football game was one to be remembered with the score 0-0. The Carolina team captain, Jack Lyon got loose on a nice run and was on the way along the sideline for the goal line. No Citadel defensive man was anywhere near. All of a sudden a bystander, the famous “Man in Brown” dashed out from the sideline and made the cleanest tackle in the game. When the referee made the signal that Lyon had scored a touchdown, even though he hadn’t reached the goal, all Torment broke out, the Citadel Cadet Corps rushed on the field and a tremendous fight broke out. It was a melee, and I saw it all. To regain control, the Citadel President, General Charles P. Summerall came onto the field to restore peace. As the fight grew, clear heads dictated action and the directors, of both bands struck up The Star Spangled Banner. And of course through training, the Citadel Cadets popped to attention and froze in that position. Of course no one would dare strike a man while he was respecting our National Anthem. A peace returned and “The Man in Brown” was promptly hauled to the city jail where he listened to the remainder of the game by radio. He was then released after being congratulated on his excellent tackle. Incidentally, USC won.
In 1939 an additional 60 feet was added to the main building to enclose the Floral Department. World War II was then upon us and our Board decided to continue to have the fair for the duration. Premiums would be paid in war stamps or war bonds. Patriotism extended everywhere. Shortly after the war steel grandstands were built on the west side of the football field. We could now seat around 6000 people in our games.
A baseball field was located in the area of the old race track and Post 4, The American Legion team played all of its home games at the fairgrounds until Mirmow Field was built.
As we slowly moved forward, at last in 1951 all of the old pit toilets were demolished and modern (for that day) flush toilets were installed and connected to the city sewer system. In 1952 new metal grandstands were installed at the racetrack on either side of the wooden, covered grandstand. It was in 1957 that our fair discontinued the practice of setting aside one day as “Negro Day”. All premiums paid to all exhibitors were paid equally to all persons. There were never any friction between the races and the elimination of that practice created a favorable environment in the community.
In 1949 our association signed a 50-year lease with the Orangeburg County Commission for a building to be known as the “Cattle Barn”. This barn was built with $42,000.00 provided by the county. There were few restrictions put on the association related to the lease, however no problems ever arose during the life of the lease. In 1959 a similar agreement enabled us to build the Swine Barn, with the cost to be covered by the county. That lease will expire in 2009.
In 1959 our association was able to purchase the property of Mrs. J. Leroy Dukes that joined our land on the south. We would now own from the railroad tracks near Whaley Street all the way to Sprinkle Avenue. This purchase gave us ten additional acres for parking, as well as a residence for the caretaker. In 1961 new fencing was installed along Boulevard for our entire frontage. That same year the roads within the fairground were paved. No college football games are scheduled, however many high school games will be played. The football field is renamed “Judge Hughes Stadium”.
Our caretaker, Glenn Bates has moved into the Dukes house on the south west corner of the fairgrounds. In 1965 our association loaned the end zone bleachers at Judge Hughes Stadium to Mirmow Field to be used for the American Legion World Series in 1966. These bleachers were relocated at no expense of the association. After two years, the City of Orangeburg bought the stands.
Our beloved president and manager Judge Hughes died in early 1970. All plans for that years fair had been completed at the time. T. T. (son) Jeffords was unanimously elected to succeed the Judge as president and manager and plans for improvements began to develop as funds came available.
In 1970, all of the old substandard shacks that had been used as permanent concession stands were demolished and the “Restaurant Row” was established, and the income from concessions grew. One special shed was built for the use of the Kiwanis Club Steak House. They had operated under a tent for a number of years. Their business grew to a new high with their shed. That game year an agreement was made with Orangeburg High School to play all of their home football games at Judge Hughes Stadium for $1500.00 per year.
In 1971 the first shower house on any fairgrounds in SC was built. This was done at the request of and with association of The Dell and Travers Carnival Company. Also our camper parking lot was enlarged to 72 drops.
In 1974 the bylaws were amended to discontinue the electing of Directors by Township and start electing sixteen members from the stockholders residing in Orangeburg County at large.
During the early 70’s we received a Federal grant to enlarge our arena facility by extending the South Show room of the Cattle Barn by 60’ and adding new restrooms and a kitchen. This addition created the present arena that we now enjoy, further, it connected the cattle barn to the swine barn and created an excellent facility for further livestock shows and sales. This building was used on many occasions for national sales. On one occasion we had cattle exhibited there that were owned by President Eisenhower. On another sale a Duroc Boar was sold for the all-time high price of $25,000.00. As purebred herds of swine gradually shrank to the present low level, the use of the swine facility diminished to its present state.
More progress was accomplished during the Jeffords’ reign than in many previous years. He died in 1977. His death signaled the end of an era of which he was the last of the original organizers of our association. Those early men were J.W. Smoak, Judge Jerry M. Hughes, W. Archie Schiffley, Rudolph Bozard, Milton K. Jeffords, and Son Jeffords were really “last of the Mohicans”. All of them served with distinction, the success and growth of the Orangeburg County Fair. It is interesting to note that the author’s mother, Mrs. John R. (Miss Annie) Fogle served in her capacity as superintendent of the Food Conservation Department longer than any of the earlier employees. Judge Hughes served for sixty years, and Miss Annie served for sixty-five continuous fairs.