“While we do not care to be the biggest Fair in the state we do aim to have the Best Fair in the world.” –1925 premium book
RIPPING INTO THE ROARING ’20s
Big changes came to the Topsfield Fair in the early 1920s. The Society invested in ambitious building and improvement projects: a new exhibition hall and stable, a half-mile race track, a grandstand, a dance pavilion, a baseball field, and the additions of a new water supply and electric lights, which allowed for nighttime programming.
Even more important: Women and (if over the age of 12) children were being admitted to the Essex Agricultural Society for the first time. Opening the doors, finally, to a wider audience worked in conjunction with another enhancement to profoundly change the face and fortunes of the Topsfield Fair: the commitment to provide continuous entertainment.
As a result, the Fair experienced a rebound in attendance and enthusiasm. The 1921 event was a huge, multiday extravaganza that offered a schedule bursting with things to see and do. In fact, throughout the Roaring ’20s, entertainment at the Topsfield Fair was the cat’s meow and the bee’s knees. Vaudeville troupes like the BF Keith Vaudeville Exchange showed off their tap dancing, plate spinning, trapeze swinging, and Irving Berlin-belting chops. Aerialists performed an “amazing gymnastic routine of the hair-raising type.” Horses raced in gymkhana events and performed in elaborate shows. There was dancing in the dance hall and rousing music from the Salem Cadet Band. There were refreshments, fakirs, and concessions.
The Topsfield Fair even became so popular that it had to employ a detail of Burns’ Detectives (from New York-based William J. Burns International Detective Agency) to catch “a large number of fence jumpers” who were sneaking into the festivities without paying. Once caught, they’d have to pay up or get out.
Without a doubt, the Topsfield Fair was back and better than ever. As one of the event’s programs from the era crowed, “It provides once a year, to both young and old, the most entertaining and instructive four-day attraction in the county.”