By Myra Lee Adams Goff
Here we are again: “It’s Fair Time.”
This celebration has lasted more than 100 years.
Would you like to hear some details of the first Comal County Fair? Read on.
An article in the “Neu Braunfelser Zeitung” in 1892 pointed out that Fredericksburg and Lockhart had a successful fair, so, why not New Braunfels? After all, the trains had agreed to run specials from San Antonio and Austin to New Braunfels and that would bring crowds. Large numbers of citizens could be counted on to display livestock, agricultural products, machines, antiques, coins and many other things. There could be plenty of entertainment and horse races.
That same year, a forerunner of the fair took place on the grounds of the Krankenhaus (hospital) located on the corner of Zink and Seguin streets. This city hospital was finally completed and as a celebration and fundraiser, a community fair would take place on the grounds.
The event was so successful that interest was high in holding an annual fair. The Comal County Fair Association was organized in 1893 and the list of organizers sounds like a Who’s Who in New Braunfels. Harry Landa was selected president. On the board, to name a few, were Dr. A. Garwood, C.A. Jahn, S.V. Pfeuffer, Joseph Faust, Ferdinand Simon, Hermann Seele and B.F. Voelcker.
The first fair was set for that same year (1893) on Landa’s pasture (where the Landmark stands).
Guess what! “No Rain-No Fair” screamed the discouraging headline in the “Neu Braunfelser Zeitung” in 1893. That first fair was cancelled due to drought conditions. Consequently the first official fair was rescheduled a year later in 1894.
The following information comes to us from former “Herald” staff writer, Marjorie Cook, who used a translation by Oscar Haas, who translated it from a story in German from the “Neu Braunfelser Herald” in 1894. My version is a paraphrase. Now, how’s that for giving credit?
Imagine white tents under ancient oak trees hung with long beards of moss. The main tent is filled to overflowing with fruits of the field and orchards; there are bales of cotton, bushels of corn, grapes and other homegrown fruits. Then there are products of these crops – preserves, molasses, cornmeal, flour. There are typical baked products – cakes, breads, dairy products. Another tent features oil paintings and flowers.
“A family of snow white pigs, papa, mama, and six cute squealing babies are the hit of the livestock exhibit. Clean, enviable and ‘saufaul’ (hog lazy) they are.” Then there were thoroughbred cattle, horses, poultry, but ABSOLUTELY NO SHEEP(?)
Spectators fill the racetrack stands for horse and harness racing. Roping of wild cattle and breaking of wild horses is an exciting show. There is amusement of all kinds with concerts each afternoon.
Two Davis sewing machines are kept in constant motion and Ed Gruene displays musical instruments. Studebaker wagons and buggies are shown, a new Sulky and Aero motor windmills.
Now everyone is looking forward to the personality contest. Citizens have been voting for the most popular man, the most modest man, the heaviest man, the largest foot, the smallest foot, the prettiest girl, the most popular girl, the best looking baby, the longest hair, longest beard, oldest couple and, finally, the ugliest man in Comal County (a dubious honor if there ever was one, won by F. Kailer, editor of the “Neu Braunfelser Zeitung”).
To find out the winners of all these contests, see “It’s Fair Time; History of the Comal County Fair” written by Myra Lee Adams Goff and for sale at the Fairgrounds and the Sophienburg Museum.
There are lots of similarities between now and then with some exceptions, like horseracing, and fortunately for the winners, no personality contests.
Check out the Fair parade this Friday and the rest of the events at the Fairgrounds, Sept. 22 through 26.
It’s Fair Time!