County and State Fairs

In 1889 Chase County farmer C. L. Brainard, Sr., earned top honors at the first Chase County Fair and then at the Nebraska State Fair in Lincoln. Brainard, who also worked at carpentry and teaching, wrote in his reminiscences, “Chase County had never held a county fair, so during the winter ’88-89, an association was organized and premium lists gotten out early. Among special prizes offered, was $15.00 for the best collections and display of vegetables from one farm, and another $15.00 for the best collection of flowers.

“There were a good many contestants from all over the county and when it came to Fair time in September, there was a fine showing of products and practically a unanimous attendance of the inhabitants. The county was new and not by any means fully occupied. Lissa [Brainard’s wife] and I took particular pains and I had a few college ideas [Brainard had attended Peru State Normal School and the University of Nebraska at Lincoln] that I brought to bear, so I received the $15.00 vegetable prize and Lissa got the flower one, besides quite a number of special prizes, such as squashes, beets, cabbage, and others.

“I had to use my farm wagon with the side boards to haul my ninety-one varieties to the town of Imperial, and the Fair Board decided to send me to the State Fair which came on just after the County Fair. They paid for hauling the produce to the nearest railroad station, Grant, twenty-five miles north of Imperial and paid my transportation and also that of a fellow representative, a Mr. Taylor, one of the wide-a-wake real estate men of the county. . . . My collection took second prize at the State Fair and I received the first prize in winter wheat there. My nearest neighbor, Ogilvie, took first on white field corn. I sold the seed of one prize watermelon that I had raised, for a little over $10.00, one of the ‘green and gold’ variety that occasioned great curiosity on account of its appearance when opened up.”

Brainard concluded of his State Fair experience in 1889: “I had free transportation for myself and products back home and so that month’s revenue was not so bad, over $40.00 in cash, besides nearly all my board and a good time besides.”

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