We’ll Be There at the Mississippi Valley Fair – Part II

“We are here! We are here! We are here!
There’s a bright spot in the Mississippi valley
Where health, wealth and beauty wins.
We invite you one and all to rally
In our city where the west begins,
We will give you the best there is in us,
And take the greatest care,
To furnish you snappy entertainment,
At the Mississippi valley fair.
You’ll be there! We’ll be there!
At the Mississippi valley fair,
Where is the fair?
In the place of glee and fun and sport
In dear old Davenport!”*

What wonderful lyrics.  Who knew that the Mississippi Valley Fair had its own song (maybe you did after reading last Thursday’s blog)?  The “Mississippi Valley Fair Booster Song” was written and published in 1924 by Albert Petersen, Director of Petersen’s Band.  The song made its official public debut in a concert at Fejervary Park on July 6, 1924.  Then it was taken on the road.

Albert Petersen had been the fair booster band director since 1922. Yes, the fair had its own booster club with members of local civic organizations and citizens supporting it.  The job was simple, travel to local cities in the weeks leading up to the fair to attract visitors to the big event.  Apparently Mr. Petersen thought these booster trips needed a little boost and wrote this wonderful song.  Mr. Petersen taught members of the group the song and even sold copies to fans in Davenport and in the towns they visited.

July 31st, August 1st and August 2nd were the big booster trips for 1924.  On the first trip local towns between Davenport and DeWitt, Maquoketa, Clinton, Princeton, and LeClaire were visited.  The second trip included Sheffield, Kewanee, Galva, Cambridge, and Aledo. The final booster run hit Durant, Wilton, Muscatine, Columbus Junction, Washington, West Liberty, Iowa City, Tipton, and Bennett.  The trips took place via train or car caravan. 

On July 31st the first trip set off, but not before parading through downtown Davenport.  The band played the new booster song while a man named Peter MacArthur sang the lyrics for the gathered crowds.  The group that day also included two men dressed as twins, several clowns, a small calliope called a “Tangley”, a Kiwanis quartet, and much more.  Over 200 people were reported to have made the excursion that day.  The next two days saw similar numbers of members partaking in the event.  The local newspapers reported the travelers were warmly welcomed at each stop.  From lemonade to cigars to chicken dinners, the towns visited played host graciously to the probably overheated, but motivated boosters.  The last trip on August 2nd was a 300 mile trip via train – all done in one day!  The boosters seem to have done their job well as fair attendance that year was estimated at 71,443 people.

The boosters’ job was to create interest to visit the fair, but something had to keep people there once they arrived.  Starting from the first fair in 1920, entertainment was always a priority.  The 1920 fair featured such excitement as Ethel Dare who jumped from plane to plane in mid-air, horse races of all kinds, “Siege of the Dardanelles” fireworks display, and auto polo and racing.  The 1924 fair featured another fireworks display called “The Destruction of Tokyo: The Great Japanese Earthquake Disaster”, auto races, horse races, and Rubin and Cherry Shows (a traveling carnival).  Of course livestock, agricultural and industrial exhibits were always a major attraction for fair visitors.

These events were certainly something to see and talk about for months afterwards.  Even today this is true.

As the Mississippi Valley Fair has drawn to a close once again we can console ourselves with the thought that wonderful entertainment and exhibitions will return August 3 – 8, 2010.   If that seems to far away, stop by (or email or call) to see our copy of the booster song so you are prepared for next’s year’s fun.  See you at the fair!

*”Mississippi Valley Fair Booster Song” written by Albert Petersen, copyright 1924.
(Amy D.)

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