Wednesday, October 23, 2019

The First Bossier Parish Fair

 Every year in October, the State Fair of Louisiana comes to town, but did you know that Bossier Parish had its own fair?

W. B. Boggs looking east on East Palmetto Avenue, Plain Dealing, La.
Bryce Turnley Collection: 1997.062.332
W. B. Boggs issued the following invitation in The Bossier Banner on Feb. 23, 1893, “In accordance with a resolution of the Bossier Parish Farmers’ Union, at the January meeting, I hereby call a meeting of the citizens of Bossier parish and South Lafayette county, Ark., at Plain Dealing, on Saturday, the 11th day of Mach, 1893, at 10 a.m., for the purpose of organizing the North Bossier Fair Association.”

“Every citizen is cordially invited and earnestly requested to be present.”

Officials of the Bossier Fair Association were John M. Sentell, president, Dr. C. H. Irion, secretary, and Mrs. W. H. Scanland, treasurer. A week before the first fair in 1899, they distributed posters throughout the parish to advertise and provide information about the upcoming fair.

Advertisements ran in the newspapers for train tickets on the Cotton Belt Route to the fair, such as this one seen in The Times, “On account of Bossier fair to be held at Benton, September 12th to 14th.. Inclusive, the Cotton Belt Route will sell tickets at one and one-third fares, with minimum of 50 cents. Tickets on sale September 11th to 14th., inclusive, with return limit September 15th.”
Dr. C. H. Irion, c. 1900.
Bossier Parish Library History Center Collection: Ed 007.004

The first Bossier Parish Fair was held on Dr. C. H. Irion’s property in Benton Sept. 12-14. The following account of the opening day of the first fair appeared in The Times on Sept. 13, 1899.

“Benton, Sept. 12. - The opening day of the Bossier fair was a decided success. The weather was all that could be desired, the assembled multitude was in a fine humor, and everything passed off smoothly and pleasantly and to the entire credit of the management.”

“Dr. C. H. Irion, who has been the leading spirit in this enterprise, has worked incessantly since its inception, and his indefatigable efforts are bearing rich fruit. As superintendent of the fair he is here, there and everywhere, and in connection with his able and active corps of assistants, nothing is overlooked or neglected in any particular.”

“It was hoped and confidently expected that Governor Foster would be able to attend the opening day, but circumstances prevented it. Had the governor been here he would have met a reception that would have done his heart good.”

“Excellent music was furnished by a colored band from Shreveport,”

“The opening address, welcoming the people to Bossier’s fair and capital, was delivered by Mr. Rydon D. Webb, and was a happy effort that won for the speaker the enthusiastic applause of his hearers.”

“The people generally, as well as the farmers, are taking great interest in the success of the fair. Visitors are numerous and more are coming from all directions. Shreveport is already fairly represented and many more of her people are expected to-morrow.”

“The hospitable people of Benton are leaving nothing undone that will contribute to the pleasure and comfort of their guests.”

“It is expected that the crowd will be greatly augmented to-morrow. All who wish to have a really enjoyable time are cordially invited to be present. The fair continues for two days longer.”
Grandstand and racetrack at Plain Dealing c. 1910s, used during the Bossier Parish Fair.
Beulah Findley Collection: 1997.054.045

1941 Bossier Parish Fair Catalog and Premium List.
Marilyn B. Light Collection: 1999.020.025
The Bossier Parish Fair was a great success in the first couple of years. However, the third year was not so successful, and the endeavor was abandoned until 1906 when it was reorganized. From 1906 through 1941, the Bossier Parish Fair was held annually in Plain Dealing.

In 1905, the Shreveport Times took up the question, “why not a state fair for Louisiana?” The very next year 1906, the first State Fair of Louisiana was held in Shreveport, and once the Bossier Fair was over, the exhibits would be moved to the State Fair.

To learn more about the Bossier Parish Fair, visit the Bossier Parish Libraries History Center, 2206 Beckett Street, Bossier City.
Bossier Parish Exhibit at the 2nd annual Louisiana State Fair, 1907.
Mary Wheeler Corley Colelction: 2003.026.141

By: Amy Robertson

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