History of the Great Pocomoke Fair
fairs, exhibits and shows have been part of farm life since Biblical
times. The book of Ezekiel, written around 500 B.C. has several
references to fairs. During the early centuries of Christianity,
the Church took an active part in sponsoring fairs as part of
the observance of religious holidays and seasons. Everyone knows
who Simple Simon met--the pie man going to the fair.....
of Ticket donated by ET & Jan Trader, Withams, VA
A fair is quite simply, an event held for presenting or viewing
of exhibits. Some fairs last just a few days and are local in
scope and some run for months, like the world's Fair, and attract
people from many countries. Fairs are a major industry in the
United States and Canada. More than 3,200 fairs are held annually
in the two countries and they earn more than $1.7 billion for
the areas in which they are held.
In 1641, the government of New Netherlands authorized the first
annual fair in the American colonies, to be held in New Amsterdam
(now New York City). By the mid-1700s, fairs had become common
throughout the colonies. They were primarily agricultural and
served as an important showcase for the farm products of the
local area. The first state fairs were held in New Jersey and
New York about 1840.
is reasonable to assume that fairs were held in Worcester County
during the colonial era, just as they were elsewhere and they
no doubt were agriculturally oriented as well.
In rural communities, fairs are true community events, celebrating
the fruits of harvest, handiwork of farm wives and of course,
the prowess of farmers in raising cattle, swing and poultry
of blue-ribbon quality.
The Great Pocomoke Fair, which began in 1901 and was called
"Great" at least up through 1909, had all of these
ingredients plus the added feature of horse racing. Located
at the corner of Second and Broad Street in Pocomoke City, the
Fair was organized officially on June 24, 1901, by Samuel J.
Twilley, William S. Schoolfield, James S. Clogg, James T. Young,
Henry N. Willis, Clarence F. Barnes, Francis H. Dryden and Charles
O. Melvin, all of Worcester County, and George W. Riddle and
Francis E. Matthews of Somerset County, John W. Carroll of Cape
Charles and Nathaniel S. Smith of Chincoteague who incorporated
as the Pocomoke Fair and Agricultural Association of Pocomoke
City, Worcester County, Maryland. They laid the ground work
for an event that existed for more than a quarter of a century
and did a great job in securing support from the local community,
including Pocomoke's banks, who often gave the money for the
premiums at the Fair and supported it financially.
1918, a supporting organization was incorporated by Daniel C.
Armstrong, Robert I. Lednum, Ray V. Gladding, Calving E. Townsend
and Charles L. Balance, all of Pocomoke City.
The Fair catalogs provide quite a lot of information in themselves.
One thing is eminently clear: Pocomoke folk were very proud
of their Fair.
The railroad ran special excursions to Pocomoke from surrounding
towns, and all modern conveniences, including telegraph and
telephone services, were available on the fairgrounds. The town
encouraged visitors to walk ten minutes to town to "take
advantage of our large emporiums" to shop before and after
the "Great Fair."
W. Frank Jones, 1878-1945 - Collection by Robert F. Jones
hotels awaited visitors: the Ford House, Parker House, Hotel
Pocomoke, Worcester House, Riverside and Landing House. And--the
Fair grounds were only a two minute walk from the N.Y.P. &
N.R.R. train depot and a quarter of a mile from the wharf of
the B.C. & A. Railway Company, where four boats a week from
How much did it cost to get into the Fair? In 1907, a single
admission was 25 cents; children under 12 were 15 cents; a carriage
and horse was a quarter to park; Grand Stand and Quarter Stretch
tickets were also a quarter. A season ticket, called a Membership
Ticket, good to pass in and out everywhere during the Fair was
$2.50 for men and $1.50 for ladies.
1930, day admission had risen to 50 cents for adults, a quarter
for children under 12 and vehicles still could be parked for
Entertainment was always a large part of the Fair: Outside the
exposition hall the scene was a panorama, running along a wide
lawn a quarter of a mile in length, upon which were grouped
in close proximity all kinds of sideshows, merry-go-rounds and
museums. Fortune tellers and vendors of novelties line the wide
avenue on one side, while on the opposite side were boarding
houses, restaurants, watermelon, lemonade and ice cream saloons,
all of which seemed to the thronged with buyers with ready money
were games of chance, boxing and wrestling matches, and the
sideshows had fat women, snakes, and fortune tellers charged
ten or fifteen cents. Something called "Hokey Pokey"
ice cream was sold at three cents a cake, two for a nickel.
As time passed, modern technology brought new and exciting entertainment:
in addition to auto exhibits, men parachuted from balloons and
airplanes. By 1930, the last year of the Fair, there were auto
races in addition to the horse races, and, for the first time,
a Western Electric Public Address System, with a "complete
set of amplifiers for the broadcasting of announcements and
Horse racing was, however, for many folks the highlight of the
Fair. Trotters owner by folks from Washington, D.C. to Melfa,
VA. Races were run four days in a row, with as many as a dozen
horses in a race. Names of some of the horses who ran in the
last Fair race are Peter Worthy, Sea Worthy, My Man, Wah Hoo
Wah, Worthy Hall, Double Cross, High Tide, Donzo, Carrie Lee,
Kid Buddie, Doctor H, Julia B, Direct and DeWolf.
Sadly, the Fair met it demise-a victim of the Great Depression.
The last Fair was held in 1930 and it officers presiding over
the last event were Ray V. Gladding, President; Maurice W. Costen,
Vice-President; Harry C. Mears, Secretary; J. M. Crockett, Treasurer
and Board of Directors members were J. Harry Young, W.E. Johnson,
E.H. Taylor, A.B. Melson, C.E. Townsend, V.S. Burton, R.V. Gladding,
J.H.Ashby, J.C.Outten, J.E.Nottingham, J. Brooks Mapp and M.W.
The last Fair included nine harness races, auto races, vaudeville
programs each afternoon and evening, fireworks and a carnival
by The Great American Shows.