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Friday, 16 January 2015


The Roman fairs were holidays on which there was an intermission of labor and pleadings. The word fair is derived from the Latin word for feasts.

In the Middle Ages fairs developed to display the wares of a town or region and usually in conjunction with a summer or fall holiday.  They were especially important for long-distance and international trade, as wholesale traders traveled, sometimes for many days, to fairs where they could be sure to meet those they needed to buy from or sell to.

Village fair by Flemish artist Gillis Mostaert 1590
Fairs were often held in or near a church where traders were "guaranteed" protection by God and the King.

Beginning in the 12th century, the great fairs of Champagne were most important. Standards of measure, weight, and quality were adopted.

At old English country fairs a trick was sometimes played on unsuspecting purchasers of sucking-pigs. The pig was shown to the buyer, then put in a sack while the deal was finalized. A substitution for a less valuable animal - a cat was then made and this is what the buyer took away. When he opened the sack, he let the cat out of the bag. From this came the phrase "to let the cat out of the bag" meaning to reveal a secret. Dictionary of Phrase & Fable Nigel Rees

The first Oktoberfest was held as a horse race celebrating the wedding of Crown Prince Ludwig of Bavaria to Princess Therese von Saxony-Hildburghausen on October 12, 1810. In the years that followed, the race was combined with the state agricultural fair, and food and drink were offered. Since that time the 16-day festival has become, above all else, a celebration of German beer, drawing more than five million attendees annually.

Prince Albert planned the Great Exhibition at London's Crystal Palace, which Queen Victoria opened on May 1, 1851.

Queen Victoria opens the Great Exhibition in The Crystal Palace in Hyde Park, London, in 1851.

The Great Exhibition had 13,500 exhibitions and constituted at its time the largest assembly of people collected together for one purpose.

The Great Exhibition had Briton's’s first public toilets (“monkey closets”). Over 800,000 excited people spent a penny there.

Admission prices for the Great Exhibition varied according to the date of visitation, with ticket amounts decreasing as the parliamentary season drew to an end and London traditionally emptied of wealthy individuals. Prices varied from three guineas ((two for a woman) per day, down to one shilling . The one-shilling ticket proved most successful amongst the industrial classes, with four and a half million shillings being taken from attendees in this manner. The Great Exhibition made a profit of £186,000.

When the former novelist Benjamin Disraeli became the British Prime Minister, he said “Yes, I have climbed to the top of the greasy pole.” The allusion was to the competitive sport at fairs of climbing up or along a greasy pole without slipping off.

George Washington Gale Ferris Jr (1859-96) designed the first Ferris wheel. He created it for the 1893 World’s Fair, which was held in Chicago. It was intended to rival the height of the Eiffel Tower, a marvel of the 1889 fair in Paris.

After the fair closed, Ferris claimed that the exhibition management had robbed him and his investors of their rightful portion of the nearly $750,000 profit that his wheel brought in. He spent the next two years in litigation and died on November 22, 1896 of typhoid fever.

The Great Wheel, a Ferris wheel 308 ft high, was built for the Empire Of India Exhibition at Earls Court in London in 1895. It carried 2.5 million passengers before it was demolished in 1907.

The Kumbh Mela, held every twelve years, at Allahabad, Haridwar, Nashik and Ujjain is one of the largest fairs in India, More than 60 million people gathered in January 2001, making it the largest gathering anywhere in the world.

Sources Halife.comDictionary of Phrase and Fable by Nigel Rees

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