This edition of Beaver County Memories proves that is really is just all fun and games. Well, for a short season, at this time of year anyway, Beaver County has been the home to many games, thrills, shows, contests, farming exhibitions, and, of course great sweet and deep fried treats among other things. Call them fairs, call them carnivals, call them Festivals, call them Bazaars, call them what you will, but that is the subject of this edition of Beaver County Memories presented by St. Barnabas Beaver Meadows.
Beaver County is somewhat unique in that it has two county fairs. The Hookstown Fair, which takes place in the southwestern corner of the county in Greene Township, and the Big Knob Grange Fair, which is located in New Sewickley Township. Traditionally, fairs have both the carnival type attractions like rides, game booths and other attractions paired with agricultural displays and animal shows. And that’s exactly what the Hookstown and Big Knob Grange fairs still offer to this day. There is something unique and strangely attractive about parking the family station wagon, or in modern times, the family crossover S.U.V. or hybrid vehicle, in a dusty field and then enduring high heat and humidity out in the dusty environment while eating fried dough, watching a swine judging contest, guessing how much a fat lady weighs, playing carnival games where one could win a giant stuffed animal, switchblade comb, or maybe a cigarette lighter, and then taking in a motocross or other loud motor sport event. Those are Just a few of the the attractions that made the typical county fair special. Hookstown and Big Knob Grange fairs still offer that unique experience that is as popular now as it was over seventy years ago. The Hookstown fair started in 1946 and the Big Knob Grange Fair a few years earlier in 1942.
Prior to the Hookstown Fair and Big Knob Grange Fairs, There were other County Fairs held locally that go as far back as the 1850’s. According to published records, There were countywide fairs hosted in Beaver, later on in Morado Park in Beaver Falls and then in Junction Park in New Brighton. These fairs were organized by local agricultural clubs or groups much like they continue to be nowadays.
In addition to fairs, Beaver County has also been home to many memorable carnivals through the years. The Carnival is the county fair’s little brother, so to speak. Carnivals were usually organized as fundraisers for fire departments, and featured a smaller scale potpourri of rides, games and attractions without the farm animals. If there was a parking lot or field with a little extra space near a fire department, it was likely to have temporary portable rides showing up on big trucks at some point in the summer years ago during the carnival heyday of the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. Some of the more memorable Carnivals that dotted the landscape in Beaver County were the Center Township Fireman’s Carnival, which was held on Center Grange Road. Current Beaver County Commissioner, Tony Amadio, in his earlier days, when he was a school teacher at Center High School, played a key role in putting together the annual event in Center Township. In Patterson Township, The corner of Darlington road and eighth street came alive with sights of a ferris wheel, the sound of an organ, and the smell of hot sausage and onions as the Patterson Township Fireman staged their annual carnival every year. In Beaver Falls, The parking lot behind the Brodhead Hotel on 8th Avenue was transformed into an amusement wonderland with a carnival brought to town by the Beaver Falls Fire Department. Chippewa and New Galilee continue the tradition and still offer summertime carnivals organized by their local firemen.
Even the Churches have gotten into the act over the years. Their versions of the summertime gathering were sometimes referred to as bazaars or festivals. Typically a church bazaar or festival would have game booths, small scale gambling and bingo and various specialty dinners served in a church hall nearby. St. Joseph’s Parish, now known as Holy Family Parish, in New Brighton held a bazaar annually up until about ten years ago. Good Samaritan Parish in Ambridge continues to have a Parish Festival with Food, games and entertainment that runs over labor day weekend every year. Holy Redeemer Parish in Ellwood City continues to hold its annual bazaar during the beginning of August which goes back over fifty years, and is known for having rides, entertainment, food booths and a daily raffle. The San Rocco Festa in Aliquippa, is a hybrid festival with italian heritage and catholic church culture blended seamlessly in a wonderful town celebration that even includes performances from its own concert band made up of local adult musicians for the Sons Of Italy Club and was held for many years at Lefty Cepul Park in Aliquippa and continues to be held at Fred Taddeo Park in Center Township. The San Rocco Festa goes back to 1925 still includes a Mass and procession in honor of the Patron Saint of Patricia, Italy.
This has been a “Fairly” long Beaver County Memory, but a good one, nonetheless. Tune in to beaver county radio every day for another beaver county memory presented by St. Barnabas Beaver Meadows. A complete transcript of this edition and archived Beaver County Memories segments can be found at Beaver County Radio dot com.