Marshfield, August 1903: Marshfield’s first fair
Bad weather does not deter 5,000 from attending the event
By Kris Leonhardt
Promoted as the “Biggest Fair Ever,” the First Annual Central Wisconsin Fair of 1903 looked to be just that. In addition to the agricultural expo that already existed, the fair association announced plans for the addition of a street fair.
Enlisting the aid of the Potter & Rice Amusement Company and with the approval of the city council, the street fair was set up on Marshfield city streets. The uptown portion of the fair included 10 fabulous tented shows requiring admission as well as a myriad of free entertainment acts throughout the strip.
Topping the list of the incredible daredevils taking the field was “Fearnot,” the valiant high diver. Descending from 100 feet in the air, the fearless diver would risk his life while thrilling crowds twice daily.
Backing the whole show, a full brass band continuously performed throughout the electrifying street carnival.
While the show went on uptown, local farmers and the like showed their livestock and produce on the fairgrounds while others put together industrial, educational, and art-related exhibits.
In an effort to gather the largest crowd of its kind, fair organizers planned three horse races with stakes of $500 each — as well as multiple purse races — that would run through the entire week of the fair.
To give equal time to the athletic abilities of the human persuasion, the fair held numerous track and field events, including a potato sack race and wrestling matches featuring the Northwest Wisconsin Championships event.
Representing local entertainment was the Second Regiment band, playing throughout the fair, and a luminous horse, lit up by 150 incandescent bulbs, owned by a local man.
To ensure the influx of large crowds and a successful event, the railroad offered passes at a reduced rate from surrounding stations. Meanwhile, the local infantry set up two dances at the armory.
As the final week of August drew near, Marshfield waited in anticipation for the masses that would surely come. Monday evening rolled around, and the skies were filled with darkness as the street fair sat ready to commence and the fairgrounds were being prepared for the numerous events.
The dark skies soon turned to rain and then to deluge, and the grounds were saturated with a heavy storm. Many events were called off the following day, but by Wednesday even a continuous drizzle could not keep the crowds away. Thursday would bring more heavy rain, and eventually many of the events were canceled.
Though the events of the first Central Wisconsin Fair were hampered by inclement weather, the affair still drew 5,000 attendees.