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Drought, floods, and war affect Comal County Fair

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

There were only three times in the long history of the Comal County Fair that the fair was postponed. Two times had to do with weather and one time had to do with war.

The very first fair was scheduled to be held in November 1893. The recently organized Comal County Fair Association, under the leadership of Harry Landa, chose Landa’s Pasture for its location (LCRA later on). The Association owned no property so it rented this pasture from Landa for four years. Because of a drought, the dust was so bad that the fair had to be postponed until the following November of 1894.

The next time the fair was postponed was 1942-1946. Like so many events, the Comal County Fair was put on hold during World War II. The last year of a full-scale fair was 1941. The war was a sad time and celebrating just wasn’t in the plans. Trying to keep the fair alive, the directors carried on small stockshows and rodeos with no prizes, in other words, nothing that involved money.

New Braunfels’ Centennial in 1945 was postponed until the following year. The Centennial Fair of 1946 was the first complete fair in five years. It was good to celebrate with a fair and a parade.

Read about this Centennial Fair at Sophienburg.com Sept. 22, 2009. The NBHS band led the parade in their brand new blue and white wool uniforms. With military precision, the band played the John Philip Sousa marches. The pet parade was a huge success and this led to an even bigger pet parade the following year with 120 pets entered, even a zebra, a baby donkey, squirrels, foxes, an African tiger in a rolling cage. There were 36 horses from the Mission Valley Guest Ranch. The next year, because of several anthrax cases in the county, the Fair Association eliminated all livestock exhibits and shows. The parade banned all hoofed animals and of course that meant horses.

The years 1949 and 1950 were really boom years for the fair. Unusual animals started appearing in the pet parade. Joyce Eberhardt entered a doodle bug and won the smallest pet category. What ever happened to doodle bugs? I haven’t seen one in a long time, but I recall how entertaining they were on the Lamar School playground.

Horse races were popular and Reagan Calhoun, rodeo chairman, reported that he was looking for broncos that were “really mean.” Also on the rodeo grounds Walter Sippel demonstrated harness racing. This was a sport that had been featured in the early years. Sippel was considered one of the outstanding harness race men in the southwest.

Let’s jump up to 1954. This was the beginning of the worst drought in the history of the city. The average rainfall for New Braunfels is a little over 30 inches. In ’54, the yearly rainfall was slightly over 10 inches. The drought lasted two more years with 23 inches in ’55 and 18.44 inches in ’56.

This three-year period was when the springs dried up, there was no water in Landa Lake and both the Guadalupe and the Comal were reduced to a mere trickle. The fair rocked along in the dust. Does anyone remember the city water trucks that sprinkled the roads to try to eliminate the dust?

Now jump forward to 1957 when the rainfall for the year was 51.88. By Wednesday when the carnival rolled into the fairgrounds, eight inches of rain fell so, they just parked on the paved center street of the grounds. The fairgrounds turned from a lake to a swamp — just dried-up grass and mud, and lots of it. The fair was postponed for two weeks.

The Comal County Fair generates much interest and enthusiasm year after year. It becomes part of childhood, growing up, and part of old age. The show must go on.

Landa Park Springs - Drought dried up the Landa Park Springs in 1954, ’55 and ’56, but the Comal County fair rocked along in the dust.

Landa Park Springs - Drought dried up the Landa Park Springs in 1954, ’55 and ’56, but the Comal County fair rocked along in the dust.