The Waterford Fair has come a long way since the first exhibit held in 1944. Nevertheless, the exhibition of handmade crafts has always been a central and driving feature of the event. The first Fair was simply an exhibit of the products of local crafts persons. Those who entered items in the exhibit were encouraged but not required to attend the exhibit. There was no entrance fee the first year, and the proceeds from sales of exhibit items went back to the craftspeople. In addition to the crafts, a handout was created on the history of Waterford, to be distributed to all attendees. Read below to learn the story of the first Waterford Fair, in excerpts from the minutes of the Waterford Foundation, April through November, 1944.

April 7, 1944, at the Meeting House, home of Mr. and Mrs. McDaniel:

“The promotion of crafts was then discussed and a motion made by Mrs. Stabler seconded by Mrs. Rogers that an exhibition of handicrafts be held to demonstrate the aim of the Foundation to foster and promote the practice and learning of these arts. The motion was passed. Mr. Stabler made a motion that [a] committee be appointed by the Chairman to examine the whole subject of local crafts, their learning and subsequent sale and to plan for the exhibit. The Chairman appointed Mrs. Stabler, Mrs. Rogers, Mrs. Myers and Mrs. McDaniel.”

May 12, 1944, at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Rogers:

“The Committee appointed at the April Board Meeting to examine the subject of crafts, their promotion exhibit of sale, reported that they felt it possible to hold a display in the fall which would be of interest to the community. Some contacts had been made with the persons w[h]o do handwork and many others were to be interviewed. The committee subjected that the first anniversary of the founding of the corporation be selected for this project. The date of September 15th was approved by the Board. Mr. Chamberlain spoke of his feeling that it was important to assemble all the historical data concerning Waterford and interesting fold lore and anecdotes about the early days of the village and the people who used to live there. The Directors heartily approved this suggestion as being one of our basic responsibilities and requested Mr. Chamberlain to serve as chairman of that project and to secure what help he needed.”

August 11, 1944, at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Fred Stabler:

“A discussion of the Secretary’s seven-point recommendation pertinent to the holding of the Foundation’s proposed exhibit of handicraft resulted in the adoption of all seven items presented by her.

(The chairman of the committee of the Handicraft Exhibit submits the following suggestions,.)

  1. The exhibit is to be held from Friday through Monday on October 13, 14, and 15th.
  2. Announcement cards of the exhibit to be printed and mailed to a list of interested persons and a general invitation be printed in the county papers. Also a statement of the purpose of the Foundation.
  3. A printed or mineographed [sic] short history of Waterford, and its past industries should be prepared for those attending the craft exhibit to take with them when leaving.
  4. Insurance to be carried on the exhibits while in our custody.
  5. Members of the Foundation to alternate as recepturistics [and] as tea servers during the display making it a social occasion.
  6. All effort possible should be made to have those entering exhibits attend the display.
  7. All displays must be listed and (if desired) priced and a record of who are interested in certain work kept.
  8. Where is this to be held.

A motion to change the July meeting’s decision to hold the exhibit on September 15 was made and carried; the dates of October 13, 14, and 15 were definitely agreed upon as final dates.

Mr. and Mrs. A. B. McDaniel offered their home, The Meeting House, as a place for holding the exhibit. Their offer was gratefully accepted.”

September 16, 1944, at the home of Mrs. Ellen H. Fadeley and Mr. Fenton Fadeley:

‘Mrs. Stabler, chairman of the committee on exhibits reported that the committee had met twice and steps were being taken to maintain constant publicity in the county papers prior to the exhibit; that numerous cards had been sent to exhibitors; that Mrs. Myers was making noteworthy progress on the historical pamphlet[sic] and that further meetings of the committee are planned for the near future. After discussion of the frontispiece to be used on the pamphlet[sic] it was moved and seconded that all details of this matter be left to the committee. The motion carried.

Mr. Rogers moved that the treasurer be authorized to take out insurance with Mr. Armfield to cover the exhibits put in our charge, Mrs. Beans seconded the motion and the motion carried.

Mr. Fadeley made the motion that within two weeks after the exhibit a meeting of the directors of the foundation be called at which a comprehensive report of the attendance, interest, and all facts complied[sic] concerning the exhibit be reported. The motion was seconded and passed.”

November 4, 1944, at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Edward M. Chamberlin, Jr:

“Mr. McDaniel requested a report of the exhibit committee and after the report was made Mr. Rogers moved that said report be incorporated into the minutes. Mr. Chamberlin seconded the motion. The report in condensed form is as follows: Approximately 100 persons entered 300 exhibits of handwork. Great interest was shown by nearly 600 guests who attended and the fact that many returned again and again to further enjoy certain exhibits of particular interest to themselves.

All exhibits were listed by the committee and identifying tags were placed on the exhibits. All sales and orders were recorded and cash was received and turned over to the craftsmen in the amount of about $99.00 and orders for future delivery amounted to ___. The popular selling price range was from .75 to $15 and many more articles could have been sold on the spot if duplicates had been available. 

Two questions were repeatedly asked by both exhibitors and guests “Will this be held annually.” “What is the purpose of this exhibit.” The committee was impressed with the number of persons attending from out of the county and state. The total amount of expense for printing and advertising as shown by bills presented and paid was ___.

The committee also suggested that in the future some entrance fee or a percentage on sales could easily be charged which would defray any expenses entailed. Another suggestion by the committee was that those who have exhibited this year be written to and urged to continue the development of their line of work in order to have new and interesting entries for another year.”

The success of the first exhibit at promoting handmade crafts was soon apparent. The May 18 minutes of the following year noted the following:

“It was called to the attention of the group that an art class has been started by Mrs. Pickens which is a direct result of the inspiration of the Waterford Foundation’s exhibit of last fall. Mrs. Marshal also started work in weaving by hand”

And the rest, as they say, is history!