Withstanding the Test of Time
The Tangipahoa Parish Free Fair has
proven, over time, to be an evolving force within the parish. Created in 1888, the Tangipahoa Parish Fair
was held in Amite, Louisiana.
Amite is considered the seat of Tangipahoa Parish, with the town being
created in 1849 and the parish created in 1869. Most of the information
contained within this report is due to the efforts of E.E Puls and the unknown
author of “Looking Back 110 Years”.
The Tangipahoa Parish Fair, at the time
(1888), consisted of 75 acres of land that featured a grandstand, racetrack,
and exhibit rooms. While detailed
written information on the first fairs is hard to obtain, personal interviews
and stories handed down through local families give us details that would
otherwise be lost.
One such story recalls the late Harry D.
Wilson, Commissioner of Agriculture, speaking about harness racing at the fair;
while, another story tells of an Amite resident that took part in saddle races
during the fair.
In 1908 a tornado swept through the town of Amite and destroyed the
fair grounds. By 1910, the fair had relocated to Hammond.
Local citizens and business owners worked together with the Hammond
Chamber of Commerce to secure land located on the western edge of town as the
new home of the Tangipahoa Parish Free Fair. With the move came a name change;
however, there is a dispute over the new name: either it was the Florida Parish
Fair Association or the Hammond Fair Association. Much of the effort was due to the
contribution of the Houlton brothers, two Minnesota timber men that moved to the area
and took an active interest in parish.
Funds were collected for the construction of
several wooden buildings that would serve as the fair grounds. Seated on a 60
acre tract of land, the fairgrounds housed an impressive entrance gate with
ticket booths on each side, a large entertainment pavilion with a dance floor,
a half mile race track and a large raised grandstand for air shows.
In an effort to grow and promote the fair, a manager was hired, Mr.
Ormbsy. His job was to work with the Extension personnel within the parish.
Small community fairs were held and winning exhibits were displayed at the
Florida Parishes Fair. From 1916 (or there about) to the middle 1920’s all
participating communities had their winning exhibits displayed under the
grandstand. Over the years, the fair
added school exhibits that were placed on display around the dance floor.
Schools participated from St. Tammany, Tangipahoa, Livingston, and St. Helena parishes.
During the time that the fair was held in Hammond, it took on a
larger educational role within the community.
The Friday of the fair was considered School Day and children from all
the surrounding areas traveled to the fair.
Those that were not able to travel by bus or car made their way by
rail. With the cooperation of the
railroad, special trains ran from Mc Comb, Mississippi; Loranger, St.
Tammany Parish, Livingston Parish, and St. Helena Parish. These trains would
make special stops to pick up school children all along their route and deliver
them to Hammond. From there the children and passengers would
make their way on foot to Eastside
School where they would
be organized into a parade formation with each school forming its own unit and
carrying its own banner. As they
marched, each school was judged on its performance and appearance.
During this time, the fair was not
considered a free fair. On School Day, children and school employees were
admitted free and would spend the day wondering the fair grounds. Among the exhibits at the time that captured
fairgoers attention was auto racing and an airplane. At this time, very few
people had seen an airplane. In addition, there were “side shows” that featured
new, strange, or abnormal exhibits. These exhibits included such things as:
armadillos, a seven legged cow, and half man-half woman individual. After a day of adventure, the children and
other passengers would return to the depot and board the special train for the
journey home. As with the morning route,
the evening train would stop at the various stations along the way.
In addition to bringing new or rare
items to the area, the fair is credited with promoting the improvement of
vegetation and livestock. The
competition to lay claims on “Best in Show” pushed farmers and ranchers to grow
and raise a better quality of stock.
By 1930, the fair would once again
see more changes. A combination of economic stress caused by the Great
Depression and failed strawberry crops, caused a decline in interest and once
again halted the fair. Individuals
dedicated to preserving the parish fair, attempted to continue holding an
annual fair in Loranger with support from businesses and private citizens. Fair supporters organized money making events
and operated special food booths during the fair in an effort to fund the
fair. These efforts would only last a
few years due to lack of funding and exhaustion on the part of the organizers.
By the late 1930’s the fair once again
relocated. This time, Independence would try its hand at preserving
the Tangipahoa Paris Fair. For several
had held a successful spring fair and the parish fair would become an outgrowth
of that fair. The local high school and
athletic field were used as makeshift fair grounds. Although it was to be a parish fair, interest
was mainly local and once again the fair would only last a few years. This time credit could be given to the war
efforts taking center stage.
Like a Phoenix,
the Tangipahoa Parish Fair would once again rise as the parish recovered from
the war. Returning to its place of
origin, Amite would once again become the home of the Tangipahoa Parish
Fair. Starting from scratch, fair
organizers would first need to secure a location. A local resident, Joe Binder, stepped up and
donated fifteen acres to be used for the purpose of housing the Tangipahoa
Parish Fair. Buildings were erected under the supervision of the Veterans
Administration. These buildings served
the fair for many years.
In the 1950’s further developments were made
through the allocations of funds by the state legislature for the encouragement
of fairs. The allocated funds were used for the construction of a grandstand
and a pavilion. Since the reorganization of the Tangipahoa Parish Fair, a
livestock arena and a baseball diamond and grandstand were erected on the fair
grounds. In 1987, a new metal building
was erected that now houses all school exhibits during the week of the
fair. More recently, modifications and
restoration of the original buildings have begun.
In keeping with the original spirit of the
fair, education, history, and the promotion of livestock and agriculture are
the main focuses of the Tangipahoa Parish Fair.
The Tangipahoa Parish Fair Board would like to thank those, past and present
that have dedicated their time and efforts to the success of the fair.