Meet Me At The Fair

The fall 2011 temporary exhibit at the Old Depot Museum featured panels and artifacts pertaining to the Franklin County Fair and the Lane and Richmond Fairs.

Called “The Big Fair of Kansas,” the Franklin County Fair just might be the to be the oldest fair in Kansas, though it was not held in 1874 (due to the devastation wrought by grasshoppers) nor in 1951 (due to the flood).

Lane’s Fair once focused on the district formed by the conjunction of Miami, Franklin, Anderson and Linn counties. It has survived on its own for most of its life.

Besides the Franklin County fairs, the exhibit points out the local connections to American World’s Fairs. The Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia in 1876 awarded a medal to silk produced at Ernest Valeton de Boissiere’s Silkville commune in southwest Franklin County.

The World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893, usually called the Chicago World’s Fair, is remembered as a hugely influential event which one quarter of the U.S. population saw. A group of Ottawans are pictured in the exhibit who spent a month taking in all the sights. A painting by an Ottawa woman, Mary Mathew, was displayed in the Woman’s Building at this fair and is on display in this exhibit.

The Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis in 1904 had several links to Franklin County. A local contractor built the Kansas Building in St. Louis’ Forest Park, and then bought the building after the fair, dismantled it and brought the materials back to Ottawa. California Springs water won a medal for purity.

The Century of Progress World’s Fair in Chicago in 1933 saw a lot of Franklin Countians. Brick Peacock’s Ottawa High School orchestra received a superior rating at the national contest held in conjunction with the fair. Ottawa’s American Legion Drum & Bugle Corps also won a competition. Orlis Cox’s Ottawa High School track team won a relay race over a team which included Jesse Owens, soon to be the star of the 1936 Olympics in Berlin.

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