Cambria County Fair (PA)
Cambria County, PA Biographies





It was on a rainy day at the Carrolltown Fair between race heats, in 1920, that Charles M. Schwab, full of the thought of long vacation days at Loretto, developed a vigorous idea that Cambria County should have a bigger fair. Phil E. Caulfield of Johnstown was in the judge's stand. A newspaper man or two were there also when Mr. Schwab was invited up to meet the bosses of the track. The best recollection is that Phil Caulfield opened up the subject in a general way, and that Mr. Schwab seized upon it, in a particular way, and announced he was ready to "go along." That meant that Mr. Schwab had started.

Friday evening, Sept. 3, 1920, a meeting was held in the auditorium at Ebensburg for preliminary discussion, and at a meeting at Immergrun, Loretto, the following evening, Saturday, Sept. 4, a temporary organization was formed, those present being:

Charles M. Schwab, Loretto; John C. Pender, horseman, Johnstown; John C. Ogden, general superintendent Cambria Steel plant and owner of a herd of Guernsey cattle, Johnstown; A. R. Hamilton, Pittsburgh coal operator, sportsman, formerly a shower of horses, specialist in beef and dairy cattle and sheep at Mountain Orchard Farm, near Windber; Thomas P. Burns, Nanty Gli; John H. McCann, attorney, Ebensburg; James P. Lamont, Nanty Glo; J. R. Smith, Revloc; Peter L. Carpenter, Johnstown; Blair C. Seeds, Loretto; Ira Bloom, business man and horseman, Ebensburg; and John E. Gable, newspaper man, Johnstown.

Mr. Schwab presided, with John E. Gable as temporary secretary. A motion by A. R. Hamilton, seconded by P. L. Carpenter, was adopted expressing the sense of the meeting that those present organize an association to be known as The Cambria County Fair Association, with a capital stock of $250,OOO. Those present were made temporary directors of the association, and the officers, in addition to the chairman and secretary, were: John C. Ogden, first vice president; Ira Bloom, second vice president; M. D. Kittell, Esq., Ebensburg, treasurer; John H. McCann, Ebensburg, solicitor. Messrs. Schwab, Ogden, Bloom, P. L. Carpenter and T. P. Burns were named an executive committee of five. Subsequently the number of members was increased to seven and David Barry, banker, of Johnstown, and Henry M. Gooderham, Patton R. D., farmer and pure food agent of the state, were added to the committee. Mr. McCann was authorized to make application for a charter. Mr. Hamilton was asked to suggest the names of some one to be secretary and some one familiar with the business of organizing and conducting fairs to be manager. Mr. Schwab stated he was prepared to give his time to October 15th to the promotion of the fair.

Mr. Schwab made a "speaking campaign," as chief booster for Cambria County, declaring that he was willing to do much, but that no worthwhile success was possible unless the people of the county generally became actively interested. Meetings were held at Johnstown, Tuesday, Sept. 14; Salix, Thursday, Sept. 16; Sunset Park, Friday, Sept. 17; Portage, Saturday, Sept. 18; and Ebensburg, Monday, Sept. 20. At each meeting persons were chosen to represent the local interests in the project for a big county fair, these persons to be made members of the temporary general committee and a board of directors later to be chosen in such way as to give every section and every interest in the county representation.

At the Johnstown meeting the following names were proposed: Harry Hesselbein, of the Johnstown Tribune; H. D. Brauff, of the Johnstown Leader; Samuel Lenhart, merchant and former county treasurer; James P. Thomas, merchant, coal operator and banker; Dan R. Schnabel, real estate; Nelson A. Elsasser, merchant; Harry J. Meehan, of Cosgrove & Meehan, coal operators; George T. Robinson, coal operator; S. H. Heckman, merchant; Thomas E. Reynolds, merchant; and Hon. George M. Wertz.

For Salix and vicinity: F. B. Horner, L. E. Helsel, Dr. F. J. Livingston, Abram Hostetler.

For northern Cambria County: C. A. Sharbaugh, Anseim B. Kirsch, L. J. Bearer, Louis Luxenberg, James A. McClain, Frank A. Westrick, P. C. Strittmatter, W. Howard Beers, J. A. Farabaugh, Paul Holtz, A. B. Westover, A. O. Sommerville.

For Portage and vicinity: Lyman Sherbine, Charles B. Plummer, Edward Jones, I. J. Hughes, Owen J. Jones.

For Ebensburg and vicinity: William C. Krug, Webster Griffith, I. E. Lewis, T. Stanton Davis, Frank J. Hartmann.

Others added to the general committee were: M. J. Bracken, for Gallitzin; W. Lloys Hibbs and C. A. Cunningham, Cresson; John D. Lonergan, Lilly; F. D. Clark, for Colver; Bert Conrad, for Loretto; A. A. Noel, for Munster.

Further additions were: Lester Larimer, Patton; S. J. Oldham, Colvem; Henry J. Krumanaker, Barr Township; W. I. Stineman, South Fork; I. A. Boucher, Beaverdale; Dr. Harry Sommerville, Chest Springs; William Yeckley, Portage; I. N. Wissinger, Vinco; Otto Hoffman, Vintondale; James H. Aliport, Barnesboro; Rembrandt Peale, St. Benedict.

A finance committee was named consisting of David Barry, P. L. Carpenter, M. S. Bentz and H. M. Goodham. The building committee appointments were Ira Bloom, James A. Farabaugh, Blame B. Barefoot, M. J. Bracken and Webster Griffith.

Thursday, Sept. 23, 1920, nearly all of the above committeemen were called to Immergrun, where Mr. and Mrs. Schwab entertained them. The temporary organization was continued, the new committeemen were enrolled, Mr. Hamilton reported that he was making a canvass for a competent fair manager, and John E. Gable was elected secretary. James A. McClain, of Spangler, called attention to delays in road construction, and on his motion the state highway commissioner was requested to speed up work on the section of highway between Ebensburg, Carrolltown and Spangler.

Cambria County, though not of high rank among the agricultural counties of the state, has always had highly important farming sections, and was notable for its production of potatoes, oats and buckwheat and its dairy products, hogs and sheep. Johnstown conducted an annual fair on the Luna Park grounds, Roxbury, where there was a fast half mile race track, but this fair had gone out of existence. Carrolltown Fair, however, was still growing in popularity and usefulness and it had a strong support in the north of the county. The Cambria Interstate Fair Association had fair grounds at Ebensburg. It had an excellent half mile track and some stables and barns, was not financially successful and could not hope to greatly expand its facilities for exhibits without investing much additional money. The Indiana Fair on the west and the Blair County Fair on the east were well patronized. With the coming of good roads and other modern facilities for transportation Mr. Schwab and his big committee proposed to attempt an annual exhibit on a par with the best in the state, including the Lehigh Fair at Allentown, the Berks Fair at Reading, and the York Fair at York, which ranked among the best in the country. Several good race circuits in the West offered assurances of entries for harness racing. The question of location of the fair was taken up with care. J. Leonard Replogle and other Johnstowners believed that the new fair should go to the center of population, Johnstown, where it would draw heavily upon the rich agricultural districts of northern Somerset County and upon sections of Indiana and Westmoreland counties. There as a boom to put the fair at Cresson, near the top of the Alleghenies, on the old Mountain House grounds, central as to road and railroad transportation but on the eastern edge of the county. Other sites were suggested. All suggestions were eliminated except those which proposed sites at or near Ebensburg, the geographical center of the county.

It was the thought of Mr. Schwab that the stockholders in the Ebensburg and Carrolltown fairs be invited to accept the new Cambria County Fair stock in exchange for old stock, dollar for dollar, so that all interests could be unified. The site committee had as its advisor Henry Hornbostel; of New York and Pittsburgh, consulting architect. Mr. Hornbostel was the maker of the Johnstown City Plan. The committee examined the Thomas Morris farm and portions of the Webster Griffith and P. J. Little farms, about two miles from Ebensburg, along the line of the Southern Cambria Railway and near the William Penn Highway, as one proposed site; the Thomas L. Jones farm and land of the estate of John Evans, nearer Ebensburg and the Pennsylvania Railroad; and the old Fair Grounds, just north of Ebensburg Borough, and lands of the estate of Jane Jones and a portion of the Baker farm. The committee, the architect and engineers who made studies of the various sites for building foundations and water supply and drainage, recommended the old Fair Grounds in November, 1920, and the question of location was definitely settled.

Cambria County Fair was incorporated with Ira Bloom, W. C. Krug, I. E. Lewis, F. J. Hartmarin and John E. Gable as directors. All were from Ebensburg except the last, for convenience of organization. M. D. Kittell was made treasurer, and Shetting & Nelson, attorneys, had succeeded John H. McCann as solicitor when Mr. McCann was elected a judge of the Cambria County courts.

Plans for improvements were made and a campaign for stock subscriptions were well under way, when it was decided that owing to depressed industrial conditions the campaign should be suspended. In 1923 Mr. Schwab again gave the signal for full speed ahead, and in the spring of 1924 public interest was again invited at a time when the Fair Grounds were being graded, the race track widened, water supply and distribution systems being installed, sewers laid, and a great group of buildings, designed by Mr. Hornbostel, was under construction. John Lowry, Inc., 171 Madison Avenue, New York, was the general contractor.

Cambria County Fair was a $250,000 corporation, but it did not wait for the money to prepare for the first exhibition in September, 1924. Mr. Schwab made himself responsible for contracts. Grounds, excavation and grading, water supply, sewers, roadways within the grounds and fencing items amounted to about $120,000. Structures going up included the Agricultural Building, Judging Hall, six smaller buildings for exhibits, grandstand and bleachers, racing stables, barn, comfort stations, judges' and music stands, estimated to cost $247,000 more. Before these were completed a dancing pavilion costing nearly $50,000 was added to the program, with an Administration Building and other structures. By July 4th Ebensburg was celebrating on the new Fair Grounds and soon after that entries were being received for exhibits. Before the fair, week of Sept. 24, large tents were being put up to take care of surplus cattle and swine exhibits, another large tent housed the automobile display, and the need for additional buildings, especially for mining and manufacturing, was admitted, which meant it would be met. Ample parking space was provided and concrete roadways led to the grounds from the old Carrolltown road and from the main state highway. When the first fair was held the systems of entrances and exits and the parking arrangements immediately were demonstrated to be a great asset. Though much road way in the county was under construction, there was no serious congestion of motor traffic at any time.

It is no exaggeration to say that Cambria County Fair has a half million dollar plant. The fair is conducted by Cambria County Fair Association, separately incorporated, as lessee, Cambria County Fair being the holding company. The officers and directors, as given in the 1926 premium list, are:

Blair C. Seeds, president; Ira Bloom, vice president; M. D. Kittell, treasurer; H. Frank Dorr, secretary. Directors: Charles M. Schwab, chairman of the board of Bethlehem Steel Corporation, chairman; Louis Luxenberg, jeweler, director of First National Bank of Barnesboro; M. D. Kittell, president First National Bank, Ebensburg; Edward Jones, master of Cambria County Pomona Grange, Wilmore; A. R. Hamilton, president A. R. Hamilton Company, director First National Bank and Commonwealth Trust Company, Pittsburgh; David Barry, president First National Bank of Johnstown; James P. Thomas, coal operator, director Johnstown Trust Company; James H. Allport, president Rich Hill Coal Company and vice president First National Bank of Barnesboro; John Lochrie, president Central City National Bank and president Reitz Coal Company, Windber; H. C. McWilliams, county agricultural extension representative; George E. Prindible, treasurer and general manager Patton Clay Manufacturing Company and president of four county banking institutions; Ira Bloom, vice president Cambria Title Savings and Trust Company, Ebensburg; M. J. Bracken, president Argyle Coal Company, Johnstown and Gallitzin; and Blair C. Seeds, personal representative of Mr. Schwab.

Several features of the layout are notable. Chief among these is the arena, or Judges Hall, 151 by 220 feet, with more than 4,000 seats surrounding a show place 80 by 157.5 feet. The idea was to provide a place where a great many persons could view the judging of live stock. The building was also used for indoor shows and entertainments, and for boxing matches.

Cambria County Fair is so located that it is not likely for years to be crowded by residences or industries, as has been the fate of many of the larger fairs, which were compelled to abandon old sites and take up new ones. Mr. Schwab's purpose to make the Fair Grounds a community center, a place for fun as well as for the educational advantages of high class exhibits, has been partly realized in the holding of Fourth of July celebrations, in twice a week running race meets begun in 1926, in county school athletic meets, and in competitive first aid and mine rescue meets, baseball and football. A popular feature of the fairs has been the Sportsmen's Show. The first of these, with the assistance of the Board of Game Commissioners, created a demand for similar shows at nearly every other fair held in the state and the game commission was swamped with demands for live wild animals. A show of live fish of the state is now being planned.

It is no secret that the promoters of Cambria County Fair have strong hopes of making it a sort of state fair for Central Pennsylvania, and that they expect Blair County Fair and Indiana County Fair to be merged in the big enterprise at the heart of Cambria County.

From:
History of Cambria County, Pennsylvania
By: John E. Gable
Historical Publishing Company
Topeka-Indianapolis, 1926

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