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History of the American Legion County Fair
the Cambria County Fair
Meantime the Ebensburg Fair group incorporated as the Cambria County Fair. During the next three years, the charter was amended creating the Cambria County Fair Association in 1924 with the same committeemen as the original fair, and including Judge A.A. Nelson and Philip Shettig. This effort coincided with the efforts of Mr. Schwab and his committee who had selected the grounds of the old Ebensburg Fair as the logical site for the new plant.
In 1925 entry fee was fifty cents and parking was fifty cents. It was free after 6:00 PM.
In the 1930's carnival vendors used canvas tents. Going to the Fair meant dressing up in you Sundays best. The Fair's slogan was "Always open Labor Day".
During the "high times" the association bought more land and built new buildings; the track was graded, widened and scaled to one-half mile. The County Commissioners leased the fairgrounds, with necessary labor for refurbishing to be provided by the WPA workers (WPA - Works Progress Administration created in 1935 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to ease unemployment during the Great Depression). The Fair Association furnished the monies for materials.
In the 1940's the county, like the country, was headed for deeper depression days. Cambria County and its industrial and mining dependencies took a tailspin, and the Cambria County Fair likewise went into one. Money borrowed from the local banks for restoration of the fair grounds was never paid back and foreclosure put the fair into bankruptcy. However, the conditions did not stop Ira Bloom. He gathered together a number of his good friends; Dick Crouse, Walter Good, Jim Wilkinson, and Roland (Caesar) Davis. Their tireless efforts enabled the fair to struggle through a few more years as an agricultural outlet. But by World War II, all fairs were shut down. With no fairs going on at the grounds, the buildings were left with no maintenance and they deteriorated. The plant and the grounds eventually went into the title of Cambria County for unpaid taxes. The Fair was revived in 1946 when the American Legion Post Home bought the mortgage.
To his and the fair's advantage, Mr. Green was elected District Commander at the State Convention of the American Legion. This gave him the opportunity to take his program proposal to all local Legion posts. This also precipitated his being made chairman of the fair grounds committee. The "leg work" for Mr. Green had just begun; attending meetings, talking to post members and convincing the bankers. It was discovered that since the County Commissioners had taken over the lease, that the law required them to hold a fair at least every five years. Therefore, the Commissioners signed the lease over to the Legion. Then came the task of acquiring the money to buy and save the grounds with the help of all Legion posts, in hopes of making the fair a living memorial to the American Legion in the county. Following many meetings with legal advisor, Attorney Paul Larimer, the Legion was advised to call a meeting at the Ebensburg post, inviting all other district posts to aid in closing the deal. Although Attorney Evans, on behalf of the banks, stated that the original offer was to go for $150,000, which was well beyond the means of the Legion. Aware of the fact that the banks had long ago written the fair debts off as a loss, the bank representative was convinced to accept $35,000 which he agreed would probably satisfy the lending institutions. Much discussion precipitated the conclusion that if each post were to donate approximately $4,000 it would be feasible for the Legion to take over. Mr. Green can be credited, again, for the leg-work in coming up with the following donations: $4,000 each from Portage, Ebensburg, Barnesboro, Patton and Johnstown American Legion Posts; plus $2,000 each from Cresson and Spangler; $1,000 from Conemaugh, Gallitzin and South Fork and $500 from St. Michael. Within the aid of some $10,000 borrowed from the bank, their first fair was about to get off the ground.
Beginning immediately, the fair operation was placed upon the shoulders of a group of men on a commission: Dick Crouse, Caesar Davis, James Wilkinson, Walter Good and John P. Bloom (Ira's son took Ira's place). After that first fair, Mr. Davis passed away and Mr. Crouse left the area due to a job transfer, but their positions on the commission were left vacant. For a number of years the commission was considerably successful in getting the fair on its feet. They applied for a club liquor license, constructed a quarter-mile track for stock car and midget auto races, organized a saddle club, and began full-fledged horse shows. However, as luck would have it, the fair could not make ends meet, let alone keep roofs on the buildings.
Then, the closest thing to real tragedy struck the fair. The loss of the grandstand in an historic fire June 22, 1955 took a great toll on the Association's efforts. But the fair went on with plans to slowly but surely continue a program of building, repairing and adding to the facilities already in existence, which make Cambria County's Fair one of the State's finest.
When the contract with the commissioned fair group expired in 1958, the Legion Association did not renew it, taking over the full responsibility of operating the annual event, which it has done since. In 1967, after the death of John P Bloom his son Richard Bloom became the Fair Superintendent and was superintendent for several years to follow.
In 1974 the Legion put the Fair up for sale. They received one bid from Frank Castelli. They rejected the bid and struggled to keep the Fair operating.
In 1990 the Legion got a break, receiving $300,000 grant to make repairs.
Now, the Cambria County Fair draws thousands of visitors from the surrounding counties to the grounds, as well as inviting many visitors from outside the state. For many, the fair is their only close contact with farm life during the entire year.
In 2017 the name was changed to American Legion County Fair.
Browse through our "Days gone by" photo gallery to see some of the changes the fair has experienced throughout the years.