Editor’s Note: Recording the history, our history, of Highland County is so important for future generations. Below is a compilation of facts by Kathy Beverage, secretary of the Highland County Fair Association, outlining the roots and beginnings of the Highland County Fair. Without our ancestors’ record-keeping then and Kathy’s tireless efforts now, we wouldn’t know all the wonderful and simply charming details that built our beloved annual event. Who knows? Fifty or 100 years from now, future generations may read the records we’re keeping today.
Discovering the history of the Highland County Fair is an interesting project. As time goes by, so do many memories. Fortunately, the Highland Recorder published many articles in the early 1950s on the progress of the first fair. The information is found on microfilm at the Highland County Public Library, which is a great resource, however very time consuming and hard on the eyes and back. We also discovered some of the first minutes of the Fair Association, which also helped. Both resources were invaluable to reminisce of days gone by.
According to weekly articles published from June to August, 1951, the Chamber of Commerce rallied the entire county including county officials to support a White Elephant Sale and activities set for August 24-25, 1951.
Donations of homemade cakes, pies, jellies, jams, preserves, pickles, and more were accepted under the organization of Mrs. Ethel High. H.H. “Benny” Terry and Andy Gutshall added much to the merriment and success of the auction with their auctioneering skills. The biggest cash prize of the day would go to the person that spent the most money at the sale.
Mayor Woodrow L. Gutshall, also chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, noted “the purpose of the sale is to raise money to bring into being some of the major projects of the Work Program of the Chamber of Commerce, all of which were recommended by a survey committee, of which R. Turner Jones was chairman.“
This event also encouraged the revival of old mountain handicrafts and fund-raising for a proposed memorial service building to be used for community functions.
Pleas went out requesting all Highland households start gathering up all discarded articles worth donating to the sale. Residents were to set aside articles they wish to sell on a commission basis at the sale.
In the August 10, 1951 Highland Recorder, it was noted the Chamber of Commerce White Elephant Sale had the full support of the Board of County Supervisors, who adopted the following resolution:
“We respectfully commend you for your thoughtful consideration the efforts being made by our Chamber of Commerce to develop a Work Program that has as its principal aim the Widening of Gainful, Pleasant Employment Opportunities here as that more of our young people may remain in Highland County, establish their homes and be happy, and to increase the Social and Recreational Facilities here. You are invited to assist the Chamber of Commerce in its efforts to successfully promote a Community— a White Elephant Sale on Saturday, August 25, 1951, at the Highland County Livestock Market, by donating articles to be sold, and to send to the sale other articles that you wish sold on a commission basis. We are advised that all of the profits from this sale will be used to promote the work of the Chamber of Commerce, including the proposed Memorial Service Building. Why not make Saturday, August 25 a Social and Festive Day by having the entire family attend and patronize the sale? We respectfully suggest that you do just that. Respectfully yours, Board of County Supervisors: H.L. Simmons, Chairman; J.A. Eagle, and B.L. Armstrong. Adopted August 6, 1951.”
The Ways and Means Committee voted to set aside $50 in cash prizes for the event.
Kermit Hull and P.L. Mauzy were assigned clerks for the sale, and Mrs. Reba Carpenter was asked to list the donors of articles brought to the sale.
Sheriff Glen Hammer was in charge of traffic.
County Clerk Martin L. Folks was assigned to organize the entertainment program and music, and W.L. Gutshall had charge of records for the sale.
Mrs. Ethel High would organize the food sales, and William G. Obaugh would arrange for truck service for items that needed to be brought to the sale.
It was decided to charge ten percent commission on amounts up to $25 and five percent on amounts over $25.
By August 17, 1951, the Chamber decided to add a dance to the event to take place on Friday, August 24 starting at 8:30 p.m. in the Monterey High School.
Over $800 was raised at the White Elephant Sale and dance, and a cash prize was given to the oldest attendant, Mr. Andy White, and the youngest attendant, infant of Mr. and Mrs. Melvin Echard.
Since the White Elephant Sale and dance were so successful, in January 1952, the Chamber of Commerce announced it would sponsor a Fall Homecoming Fair in August of 1952. It was decided to include an “Achievement Day” program with the event. This marks the first Fair.
Do you have early photos of the Highland County Fair? If so, we’d love to see them! Email your pictures to firstname.lastname@example.org. Additionally, we’ll pass the photos along to the Highland County Fair Association and Highland County Historial Society for further record keeping!