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Which way to the fair?

Photo: Comal County Fair Parade, 1946.

Photo: Comal County Fair Parade, 1946.

By Tara V. Kohlenberg —

With the upcoming bridge closure, much has been written about daily street traffic and river traffic and where they all will go, but it was the announced change in the Comal County Fair Parade route that got people talking. The most vocally opposed viewpoints were adamant that “the parade should be kept the way it has always been.” I suspect that they might not currently live in New Braunfels or be aware of the whole bridge issue, but I know that the fair parade has taken at least two different routes in my lifetime. So, were there others?

The forerunner of the Comal County Fair was a fundraiser for the new Krankenhaus (hospital) and took place in November 1892 as part of the hospital dedication. The event happened on the grounds of the Krankenhaus at the corner of Seguin and Zink (now Sts. Peter & Paul parking lot). The first actual Comal County Fair happened in November 1894 on Harry Landa property near the entrance of Landa Park. After four years at that location, the Comal County Fair moved to property in Comaltown. The fair enjoyed both successes and disappointments over the next few years, but the Fair Association finally disbanded in the years leading up to and during World War I.

In 1923, the Comal County Fair Association reorganized. Coincidently, 1923 is also when the new San Antonio Street bridge over the Comal River was completed, giving greater access to Comaltown. It also meant better access to the fairgrounds which sat at the end of Common Street.

The Comal County Fair grew and added more events and attractions. In 1928, the parade was added. The 1928 parade began at “The High School” located at the corner of Mill and Academy. It stepped off on Academy, turned left on San Antonio and proceeded all the way to the fair- grounds.

In 1929 and 1930, they got really creative. They again started at the High School, stepped off on Academy, turned left on W. San Antonio, around the Plaza (remember there was two-way traffic on the Plaza back then) and right on S. Seguin. From there, the parade went right on Coll, right on Castell, right on W. San Antonio again, around the Plaza a second time and then continued on to the fairgrounds. It must not have been as long of a parade as we are accustomed to now or they would have run into one another.

By 1931, they came to their senses and were back to straight lines. They started at the High School, from Academy to San Antonio Street all the way to the fairgrounds.

The 1934 parade started in the same place and stayed on San Antonio Street, but they disbanded at Market Street, not crossing the bridge.

1946 was a very special year. 1945 was the actual Centennial of the Founding of New Braunfels, but because of World War II, all celebrations were postponed until 1946. 1946 was also the actual one hundredth anniversary of the founding of Comal County. Everything that year was Centennial themed, thus the Centennial Fair. That parade took place in October 1946 with much fanfare, although it ultimately followed the same route from the High School down to Dittlinger’s.

By 1958, the parades formed up at Wuest’s grocery store on the corner of Clemens and W. San Antonio (now parking lot of Arlan’s Grocery) and followed San Antonio down to disband at the bridge. The Pet Parade would go first; they would wait for the morning train to pass and then the rest of the parade would go. In the late 60s and early 70s, the parade formed up at Wuest’s, but would turn onto S. Seguin and disband at Garden Street (Civic Center).

By the 1980s, the parade began at the HEB parking lot at Santa Clara and W. San Antonio Street (now McKenna Center) before heading down to the bridge. There have been times that it continued over the bridge to Eagles Hall. More people, more parade participants, more trains that will not change their schedules for parades and bridge projects may instill more changes in the future. But for now, they are sticking with straight lines. The 126th Comal County Fair Parade will form up on S. Seguin at Hampe (Post Office area) and proceed down Seguin, around the Plaza, continuing northwest to Bridge Street.

In 2020, we will also have a Founders’ Day Parade in March. Let’s hope the route is much simpler than the 1946 Centennial Founders Parade which was held on May 12, 1946. The following is what they put in the 1946 program book; you WILL need a map for this.

Parade will form at the Fair Grounds; West on E. Common Street to S. Union Avenue; South on S. Union Avenue to W. Dittlinger Street (now San Antonio Street); across bridge into E. San Antonio Street; West on E. San Antonio Street around the North side of Plaza into W. San Antonio Street; Out W. San Antonio Street to N. Walnut Avenue; North one block to W. Mill Street; East on W. Mill to N. Seguin Avenue; South on N. Seguin Avenue to Plaza, around West Side of Plaza into W. San Antonio Street; One block West on W. San Antonio Street to S. Castell Avenue; South on S. Castell Avenue to W. Garden Street; One block East on W. Garden Street into S. Seguin Avenue; North on S. Seguin Avenue to Plaza, around East side of Plaza into E. San Antonio Street and back to point of beginning.

Whew! I got confused typing it!

Sources: It’s Fair Time! by Myra Lee Adams Goff; The Herald-Zeitung; Sophienburg Museum & Archives.