Eighteen hundred acres of orchard. It was part of a vast agricultural empire built by General Harry Trexler in the early years of the twentieth century. It nearly surrounded the village of Schnecksville. It was perfect orchard land, with sharply rolling hills and a breeze that never quit. The breeze prohibited early season frost from forming on the buds and assured a good crop of peaches, apples and pears. It was beautiful. In spring, when the trees were in blossom, the landscape was painted in shades of white and pink, for as far as the eye could see. The immaculately groomed orchards also provided a way of life for many of the local inhabitants, but now the pressures of suburban sprawl and commercial development were becoming too great for the orchards to survive. It was decided to cease orchard operations and market the land for development.
The first party to express an interest in some of the newly available land was the Schnecksville Fire Company, located at the center of the village. It was growing out of its quarters and had no room for expansion. In 1980, the fire company bought a tract of land a few feet off Main Street and in September of that year, decided to build a large open air pavilion and hold a carnival to financially help support the building fund. That fall, many of the trees were cleared and a road was graded back to the site of the pavilion. Next spring the pavilion was erected.
The carnival was held in August of 1981. Although it was enjoyed by young and alike, in the strictest sense of the word, it was nothing like a carnival. The bed of a 1932 Ford Fire Truck was outfitted with hay bales, which provided the only ride. The ride included a journey around the perimeter of the fire company’s new land. The Ladies Auxiliary provided lots of home-cooked food and the bands performed on the back of a flatbed trailer supplied by George Husack Trucking. Joe “Pappy” Horwith was the man in charge and after the carnival was over a net income of $4,986.44 was reported and applied against the $23,727.00 cost of the pavilion.
The second carnival was held in August of 1982. This time it was a real carnival with rides, popcorn, cotton candy and games of chance. Later that fall, Pappy renamed this carnival THE SCHNECKSVILLE COMMUNITY FAIR. The Fair’s first committee consisted of Joe Horwith, John Schaeffer, Karl Haas, LeRoy Haas, Joanne Horwith, Donald Braim, Paul Schwarz, Ted Rothrock, Sam Lutz, Keith Stahley, Jody Blose, Harry Charles, Bob Held and Joe Bachert.
The first Schnecksville Community Fair was held in May of 1983. It ran for five days, had a sideshow with live lions and tigers and featured a “fireworks spectacular” on Friday night. Admission was free, but there was a $2.00 donation for parking. On Saturday, a lawn tractor was raffled off. A net income for the first Schnecksville Community Fair was reported at $27, 883.25.
Otto’s Amusements provided the midway with rides in 1982 and again in 1983. In 1984 Amusements and their “Big Ely” Ferris wheel would start a relationship with the Fair that would last more than a decade. 1984 was the transition year in which the fair became a fair. The committee shrunk in size and a Board of Directors was established and Officers were elected. A premium catalog was issued and an application was made for membership in the Pennsylvania State Association of County Fairs. The Fair was now in the hands of people who knew absolutely nothing about running a fair. All they could do was learn and learn they did, the hard way.
The Fair’s first premium catalog consisted of five typed pages of standard size paper. It was reproduced on a copying machine and stapled in one corner and distributed only to the fire company’s Ladies Auxiliary and the local grange. Surprisingly, there was pretty good response from the community and the judges (all relatives of the fair officers) had their hands full. However, somehow, and for reasons unknown, the Lehigh County 4-H heard about the fair and showed up with a couple hundred ceramic ducks. These little, yellow ceramic ducks covered four tables. The judges now faced the dilemma of choosing the best duck. And without uncertainty they did it!
In 1985, the 4-H Stock Club was invited to participate in the fair by bringing their Petting Zoo to the Fair. This was housed in a large tent that they decorated very beautifully inside and out with flowers and a split rail fence. It was located across from a still larger tent that housed the competitive exhibits, which now had grown two to three, even without the ceramic ducks. Two other large tents housed a new craft show. The Schnecksville Community Fair was beginning to look like a fair.
A couple of good things happened in 1985. Dale and Naomi Grim came with the 4-H Petting Zoo and offered to organize and run animal exhibits and judging for the fair. Also, Donald Kuntz and Skip Joseph stumbled over some pretty shoddy wiring on the midway. They must have felt sorry for the Fair and volunteered their knowledge and services as the Fair’s electricians. The Fair officers themselves didn’t have a clue as to what they were doing. However, those people who did know a thing or two were stepping up and showing the way.
In 1986, the led the Fair into the world of animal showmanship. In the years that followed, the Fair constructed four animal buildings and a covered show ring to provide space for all the animal exhibits. Helping to build most of the building was Emory Minnich, who came on board shortly after the Grim’s. He also did most of the work on the mains stage and single handedly built the livestock office and the ticket booths at the three entrance gates.
In 1991, the Fair became a corporation and in 1993, gained it most famous board member, Beverly Gruber. As the fair grew through the nineties, Goodtime Amusements was invited to be the Fair’s new carnival. At this time, the fair became a pay-one price entity where the price of admission included all rides and entertainment. As the old century gave way to the new, Henry T. Cole Shows took over operations of the midway.
The history of the Schnecksville Community Fair is not a history at all. It’s too new. It is still being invented. The Schnecksville Community Fair is the story of a group of very talented people who share the dream of a first class agricultural fair in Schnecksville. The creation goes on and, somehow, new faces with new talents but with the same dream are still emerging.
KEEP ‘EM COMIN’!!!