Washington Fair 1963 was 50 long years ago but after some thought not too long ago since time has a knack of being fleeting. Memories of the 1963 Fair can be restored. We took a look at the 1963 Missourian to refresh our memory, and a lot of what happened returned to our recall.
That was the Fair that received negative publicity in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The newspaper reported that a race riot occurred. It was a gross exaggeration. There was a slight incident involving some whites and blacks. It didn’t amount to much. There were no arrests. No one was hurt. It was as minor as they come. Yet the newspaper expanded it to call it a riot. In a front page editorial, The Missourian called the published story “irresponsible reporting,” and harmful to journalism in general.
In 1963, the Fair chairman was the late Ernie Hazel. He had three co-chairmen, all of whom have passed away. The co-chairmen were Frank Lohmeyer, Paul Moosmann and John McLaughlin. It was a four-day Fair in those years.
Pat Holt, sponsored by Fan Photo, was the 1963 Fair queen. First maid of honor was Marie Peters and the second maid of honor was Mary Lou Filla. There were 35 Fair queen contestants. Later the entries were cut to 25, which is the number today.
Members of the Queen Committee were Renee Nouss, Kay Woomack, Dorothy Wehmueller, who chaired the committee, Nanky Hartbauer and Ann Kiefer. Those names bring back memories.
It was a season of a major drought, but a record attendance was forecast. Records were set as predicted. There was a major improvement awaiting Fair-goers — permanent seating in the arena.
There were more than 1,000 entries in the home economics division. Betty Wilmesher, Union, won eight blue and seven red ribbons to win top honors among the many exhibitors.
There was a ham show in 1963. There were 29 entries. The grand champion ham was exhibited by Wilbert Maune. The ham brought $5 a pound at the ham auction, a total of $78.75. It was purchased by James Massey Construction Co.
At the market steer auction, Kroger Co. bought 18 head for a total of $4,612 (a lot of money in those days). The Bank of Washington bought nine steers, and the Franklin County Bank purchased seven. Blue and red ribbon winners were eligible for the auction. There were 99 steers entered and 81 were auctioned for a total of $22,003, a new record. Phyllis Ellerbeck, Foristell, exhibited the top Hereford entry.
There were sheep, hog and dairy shows and judging.
The featured entertainer was Leroy Van Dyke, who was a television and radio star. He also was the auctioneer for the market steer auction.
A special feature of the 1963 Fair was the Mercury Space Capsule. Skydivers from a club in St. Louis performed and several landed in Lions Lake on purpose. There was a horse show, which were popular in those years. A Marine Corps Drum and Bugle Team performed. Another entertainer was Sammy Gardner. Other events were a water-ski show on Lions Lake, and auto thrill show, go-cart races, team pulling and a concert by a U.S. Army band.
The Jaycees barbecued more than 5,500 pork steaks and the Lions Club served 400 people the Saturday of the Fair at a breakfast.
Fifty years ago, the Fair was a success. Volunteers were a key factor in the success of the Fair just as they are every year. Also, it brought the community together 50 years ago, the same as it has ever since the modern day Washington Fair began in 1950.