The Clearfield County Fair began as an agricultural exposition in 1860, just as the United States was coming apart at the seams and descending into treasonous session and civil war.
The fair began as an organized display of county livestock, home crafts, crops and garden products. The Expo Halls and animal stables have always highlighted those parts of the fair with three notable exceptions.
The fair was cancelled in 1944 and 1945. Winning World War II demanded extra working hours, as well as strict rationing of foodstuffs, gasoline and textiles.
Many men were serving in the military forces and many women took factory labor jobs and even did the hard farm tasks here at home.
This year’s COVID-19 pandemic has caused cancellation of the fair, its parade and most of its trappings. Large gatherings are simply not safe in 2020.
Some enterprising and hard-working food vendors are offering to set up shop and sell their ever-popular fair specialties while adhering to social distancing rules.
It isn’t easy but they deserve credit for giving their best effort to make things seem a little like “normal.”
The two photos show the fair’s midway of a half century ago, during the early 1970’s. The rides and stage shows arrived in Clearfield by train, on Third Street, and then were towed to the Driving Park.
The two midway shows, “Decapitated Donna” and “Dungeon of Horrors” were brightly-painted facades that led to a tented area where the oddities were shown.
These shows may have been chintzy, lurid and laughably unbelievable but they drew crowds as a public address system roared out the same enticing invitation for anyone to put his/her money down and go on in!
No one expected to see a headless woman who had been guillotined and still talked. People were not screaming in authentic agony, as they were tortured on medieval stretching racks or impaled on spikes. But those ridiculous shows were fun and they were part of carnival Americana.
Fair workers who travelled with the road shows worked long hours and probably had some hard times as the rides and shows moved, seasonally, throughout the United States. Some may have been rough characters but made the fair’s midway come to life.
Hopefully, 2021 will see the fair as we knew it come back to Clearfield County.