Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

St. Johns Getting the Hang of Fairs

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

St. Johns Getting the Hang of Fairs

Article excerpt

Think of the 1997 St. Johns County Fair as a bigger,

better-designed new model car, and fair organizers say you won't

be too far off.

The fair opens its gates Tuesday with more rides, a better

layout and more room, plus some big-name entertainment.

The St. Augustine/St. Johns County Chamber of Commerce

re-established the fair in 1995, after more than a half-century

lapse. Expecting more crowds this year, they have decided to

make some changes in the site on Florida 207. Trees have been

cut down around the property to add more room for people and

parking. Fairgoers will find a lot more rides, said fair

coordinator Cochran Keating.

"It was a lesson learned from last year. We had 25,000 people

in attendance last year and many of those people voiced comments

about ways to make the fair better," Keating said. "It is a much

larger fair. Instead of the 13 or 14 midway rides we have as

many as 28 rides, more exhibitors, more games, and a better

caliber of entertainment."

The history of the St. Johns County Fair is an unusual one.

County officials say there was a fair through the 1920s, then

it disappeared. In its place came a number of festivals,

including the Founding Day celebrations in September, the

Spanish Night Watch at the Castillo de San Marcos in late June,

and the fall and spring arts festivals at St. Augustine's Plaza

de la Constitucion.

One of the big events years ago was the Ponce de Leon

celebration, said Charles Tingley, reference librarian for the

St. Augustine Historical Society.

"That was done in the spring to celebrate the Spanish

heritage," he said. "They had a queen and they re-enacted

Drake's invasion and they had people dressed in costume. It went

on for days."

But Keating, who is organizing the fair for the St.

Augustine/St. Johns County Chamber of Commerce, said many of

those events were aimed at tourists, and not for the people who

lived and worked in the county. …

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