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Poplar Tent Fair


Concord newspaper article records the story of the Poplar Tent Fair which preceded the county-wide fair by a number of years.  This fair was organized and presented by the Poplar Tent Church neighborhood most notably D. Columbus Mills and Charles Harris.  The fair grounds were on the hill beyond the church.  The fair was held in August after the crops were harvested.  Several thousand people attended, coming on horses and buggies.  People camped out, and hunted.  They spent the night sleeping under the great arbor tree where speeches were delivered.

The Poplar Tent Fairs started in the middle 1870's, from a little show of livestock.  It grew to a week long neighborhood gathering and fun-fest.

The stock stalls - half a mile long, were filled with full-blooded horses, pedigreed pigs or mammoth Brahman cattle.  At different hours during the day, the stock was paraded on the race track and made a grand sight - the prancing young steeds, nimble sheep, disgruntled hogs and lowing herds of cattle - as one onlooker remarked "made one imagine a scene of some few years ago, when Mr. Noah turned his stock out of the Ark to graze."

Some of the exhibitors each year were Chas. J. Harris with his brood mare and colt, and Brahman cows and calves, Dr. Columbus Mills with his Brahman and Ayrshire cattle, Thos. H. Robinson and his thoroughbred Merino Sheep, D. G. Holbrooks, R. W. Holbrooks, Dr. Jno. A. Moss and L. C. Caldwell all raising saddle horses, Mr. Cline showed his speciality - thoroughbred Berkshire hogs and other breeds.

Some very fine race horses were brought in from surrounding areas and each afternoon saw crowds watching this part of the fun.

The women had their part of the show in their household arts - jellies, preserves, canned and dried foods, quilts and fancy work, homemade blankets and soaps and paintings.  Some of the outstanding leaders in this were Miss Eugenia Robinson, Mrs. John M. Parks, Mrs. D. S. Caldwell, Mrs. L. C. Caldwell and Miss Julia Stirewalt.

An interesting item that comes with these fairs was that in 1880, Poplar Tent Fair Association gave to the St. John's Fair a Merino buck which they in turn gave as one of their premiums - won by N. P. Efird for 1 bushel Sugar Loaf variety wheat - 1st premium.

One year Mr. Martin showed his young bull, which, when weighed on the new scales of Charles J. Harris, (improperly balanced), created a sensation!  So did the poem by Sidney Dickson, of Iredell County.

In describing the pigs, the pumpkins, flowers, etc., and in his introduction of J. M. Gray, the speaker of the day, a politician from Salisbury, he ended each couplet with -

          "The chief attraction of the day
           was Martin's bull and J. M. Gray."

On July 4, 1960, the Concord Tribune published an article about the Poplar Tent community and quoted Mrs. J. F. Eagle: "Right here, where this house stands used to be a state fairground.  An old resident of this area used to tell us about folks coming from all over to this fair.  A race track was near the rear of the house where buggy and horse races were held.  Those folks tell about how they have heard of people camping out, for the week-long affair, bringing their farm prizes along."