City's First One-Day Carnival, Annual Weekly Fair in 1899 Was Momentous Event
In October 1899, the roughly 4,600 residents of Johnson City were wild with enthusiasm and profusely praised the city for adding its first carnival to the opening day of the week-long annual fair.
The city had called on its various merchants and manufacturers to inquire if they would be in favor of the carnival and wanted to know if they would summit to signing an affirmation of intent to enter a float in the parade.
The city's newspaper said that everybody should have been witness to the reaction of the merchants when the idea was proposed, brightening their countenances as if old-time enthusiasm had risen from the ashes of the former boom-days.
An 1899 Racket Store Advertisement Promoting the Carnival and Fair
No one refused or even hesitated to sign their name. The newspaper was credited for "fanning the fires of enthusiasm and turning them into blazes of glory." The carnival aspect of the attraction became contagious, resulting in a general spread of excitement in the air. In exactly eight working days, the parade floats were on the streets, creating quite a stir for the public.
The day of the parade brought idyllic weather and, according to witnesses, everything was dazzling. The floats were flawless in their design, the citizens were crazed with surprised delight, and strangers stood aghast as they heartily joined into the roars of spontaneous applause by appreciative crowds as each float bowed as it moved along.
The parade was comprised of 81 floats, an elongated line of bicyclists and a company of impressive-looking Rough Riders from the 1st United States Volunteer Cavalry, raised in 1898 for service in the Spanish–American War. The parade was considerably more than a mile long and the procession lasted approximately an hour.
The band was ably led by the Brabson Concert Band of Greeneville, Tennessee. Eight young men - Will Johnson, Sam Millard, Frank Miller, Bob Martin, Horace Miller, Ed Houston, Will Harris and Charles Biddle - acted as outriders and were attired in stunning uniforms.
The lead float contained the queen and maids of honor. Miss Emma Taylor, daughter of Governor "Our Bob" Taylor was chosen queen of the carnival, selecting as her maids of honor Leona Martin, Mamie King, Iva Johnson, Gertrude Taylor, Carry Carr and Lizzie Carr.
The queen and maids of honor were appropriately gowned and looked royal and regal in their colorful robes. The float was drawn by four matched horses that drew the admiration of everyone.
Next came the float sponsored by businessman Sam Pouder, containing 45 young ladies who represented the states of the Union. After that, the floats of the merchant's manufacturers, the carriages of various citizens, the bicyclists and finally the Rough Riders passed by.
The streets over which the floats passed were lined with hoards of people and no one, not even the most enthusiastic, had any idea the parade would be such a wonderful exhibit.
Several premiums were offered by the Fair Association and the Bee Hive Department Store (207-09 E. Main, former site of Parks Belk Co.). The awards committee was selected comprised of J.A. Cargille, E.O. Baldwin and W.W. Remine.
The Fair Association presented its blue ribbons: best decorated double trap, Mrs. W.P. Harris and Mrs. George T. Wofford; best decorated single trap, Dr. J.W. Cox; and best decorated farm wagon, W.J. Barton owner of Woodlawn Farm.
The Bee Hive's prizes were as follows: best decorated carriage, J.M. Brown; best decorated bicycle, D.A. Jobe; best decorated person, Miss Mabel Gildersleeve; best decorated horseback rider, Miss Lena Barton; youngest children in parade, Publisher Cy Lyle's Kindergarten; and most comical rider, A.S. Rogers, riding a gray mule.
The combined one-day carnival and week-long fair with its elaborate parade provided a shot in the arm for a city that needed a boost and it certainly received one.