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April 5, 2020

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Once upon a time in Ada

Midwinter Fairs

By Leland Crouse
Mid-Winter Fair
Excerpt from Small Town Sampler by Betty Miller

February 19, 1992
December 1921- Early in the 1920’s a group of men in the Ada community got together to discuss promotional events that might appeal to all interests in the area- agricultural, business and social. In summer county fairs, street festivals, ice-cream socials and band concerts in the parks brought people together. The Farmers and Merchants Picnic in August was on its way to becoming a tradition. The men wanted something that would do the same for the cold winter months.

After World War I, the American Legion, with its growing membership of young veterans, wanted to raise some money for permanent quarters. In 1919 the Legion’s three-day indoor carnival and bazaar at the Ada armory had been a success. The craft tables, the fortune teller’s booth, the country store and the War Museum had attracted big crowds. People bought chances on the grand prizes- a pony and a fur coat- and stayed to listen to Runser’s orchestra, the university’s Lawyer’s Jazz Band and Mike Mazzula’s music.

With the Legion’s project as an inspiration, the group of men organized the first Midwinter Fair for the first week in December in 1921. Most of the activities would take place in the armory. The women were in charge of the canned and baked goods displays. Anyone could display crafts. Ohio Northern would have educational exhibits and so would the area school children. The livestock show and judging would take place in the downtown barns in Ada. Many people had invested in an automobile but the livery stables were still in use. Businessmen were asked to decorate their windows and offer some special sales for Christmas.

Because the Midwinter Fair was a success, it got bigger and better. The officers worked long hours to make it, according to a reporter, one that “will go down in history.” W.H. Powell was the chairman, GH.J. Sousley and Frank Detrick worked with the volunteers on the committees. School children from the area schools- Ada, Hostler, Red, Mustard, Rinehart, Woodlawn, and Owlsburg- put up exhibits of their work. The women brought in baked goods, canned goods and crafts for judging. Dean H.E. Huber and Professor Edgar McElwain from the university set up an interesting and elaborate display on the European Corn Borer. Many of Ohio Northern’s 1100 students back in town for the start of the winter quarter helped with exhibits.

The livery stables were filled with livestock. Sunny Slope Farm had the champion Belgian stallion and mare; the McElroy and Wolber bull won grand champion; Roy Pickering from Kenton showed his Shorthorns and won some prizes; Edward Powell won a first for his Poland China pigs; Dave Sousley took home the senior grand champion boar prize; Gail Moore had the champion pony; Ernest Klingler’s mules were winners and so were the Ash Brothers Holsteins. Others went home with ribbons or cash prizes too- Henry Sleesman, Arthur Oldham, Wayne Putnam, Dan Motter, Ivan Kimble and Lowell McQouwn.

After the judging, the winners and the champions left the Main Garage on Buckeye and paraded down Main Street. It had rained the first day of the fair and snowed the second day; the last day was labeled “a cold snap.” The spectators pulled wool caps over their ears, wrapped their mufflers a little tighter and watched the fair finale. After it was over, the restaurants sold a lot of hot coffee and soup.

The county fairs, the street festivals and the bazaars are still part of small town life, but the Ada Midwinter Fairs are history.