Friday, September 10, 2004

116th Randolph County Old Settlers Reunion and Fall Fair

Well, the 116th Randolph County Old Settlers Reunion and Fall Fair started yesterday. The first one was held in 1888 to honour the original settlers of Randolph and Macon Counties. I am not absolutely certain, but I think that it may have been the first of its kind to be held anywhere. Originally, it was also held in different towns. Several of the earliest Reunions were held in Jacksonville. At least two were held in Macon. Finally, in 1896, it was held in the Randolph County Seat, Huntsville. It was held here for the next several years until 1901. In 1902 it returned to Huntsville and in 1905 it was decided that from then on the Reunion would be held in Huntsville. I'm not sure when Macon County was excluded from the name of the Reunion, but it was probably sometime after it moved permanently to Huntsville. I do know that at one time Randolph County had a fair in the summer that was eventually merged with the Old Settlers Reunion, hence the name it bears today--"the Randolph County Old Settlers Reunion and Fall Fair."

As a child the Randolph County Old Settlers Reunion and Fall Fair was one of the premeire events of my year. I remember that they would release classes early on both Thursday and Friday. Afterwards, the days would be filled with various events, such as the Pet Parade and so on. There were always several booths with either games or vendors selling their wares. And we usually had a carnival come into town. Saturday evening there was the parade, always the high point of the fair.

It was either when I was in sixth grade or I was in junior high that the school system stopped closing early for Old Settlers. I have never forgiven the school system for that, as it seems to me that Old Settlers has never been quite the same. Each passing year it seems as if there are fewer and fewer booths and most events are crowded into Thursday and Friday nights and most of Saturday. I have a feeling if the kids weren't in school, then there would be a lot more going on.

I went downtown yesterday and there was a total of four booths, excluding food vendors, set up. Today was even worse. There were only about two. And this year we have no carnival. As sad as it is to me, it seems as if the Old Settlers Reunion and Fall Fair is fading with each passing year. I suppose in some ways this may have been going on for a long time. Old timers tell me that when they were young, Old Settlers was even bigger than when I was a child!

Anyhow, I honestly believe that someone should try to revive the Randolph County Old Settlers Reunion and Fall Fair. To me it is important to the County. First, I think it is nice to honour those who have lived in this county for a long time, those who have kept the county running through thick and through thin. Second, I think it helps unify Randolph County. It is a tradition that has gone on for 116 years now, the majority of those years it has taken place in Randolph County. As such it also gives us a sense of history. Third, I think it is healthy for any place to have the occasional celebration. If it wasn't for fall fairs such as the Randolph County Old Settlers Reunion and Fall Fair, we would lack any kind of celebration in the fall (Labour Day certainly doesn't count for much). The harvest festivals of ancient times served an important purpose. They helped people relax and have fun and blow off steam after the gruelling work of summer and the harvest. Fall fairs serve the same purpose. They give people a break from the workaday world. If we lose Old Settlers, we will have lost anohter means of relaxing and having fun.

Anyhow, I am hoping that tomorrow goes better than today and yesterday. I am hoping that we have more vendors and a bigger crowd. It is disappointing to see Old Settlers so poorly attended. I am afraid that if attendance drops off too much, it might cease to exist entirely.

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