Fairground Community Park
Fairground Community Park
A Journey from the Past to the PresentThe Greenville County Colored Fair Association was formed in the early part of 1920 by a group of Black businessmen, professionals, and entrepreneurs from the City of Greenville, SC. The first fair was held in an open field with no enclosures on the property of the late J.C. Martin, which was near the city limits on Anderson Road. The first President of the Greenville County Colored Fair was the late James Tolbert. The late E. W. Biggs was the first secretary. In 1921, the Colored Fair was held at a baseball park off of Pendleton Street that was enclosed with a fence. Black folks were encouraged to attend and to bring their canned foods, needle works, and farm products from the garden and their livestock to show and to receive prizes. The Fair was held from November 14 - 18, 1921 and over 14,500 people attended. The Fair was such a great success that it became difficult to find a place to host the next Colored Fair. During these early years, Blacks from throughout the county came to the Colored Fair and stayed for more than one day. Travel was difficult in those years; since, the mule-driven wagons and buggies were the primary means of transportation for Black families. A few Whites also attended the Colored fair.
After the success of the second Colored Fair, Blacks had to find a location to have the Colored Fair each year and the Fair was held at three different locations from 1922 thru 1924. During these early years, it was decided that the Fair would be held annually beginning the third Sunday in October of each year and would run for one week ending on Saturday. After having to re-locate the Fair each of the first five years of its existence, in early 1925, the Black professionals from the City of Greenville formed an alliance with the Black farmers, entrepreneurs, and professionals from the rural area of Greenville County, and they purchased a new home for the Colored Fair, which is the current location for the Reedy Fork/Rocky Creek Fairground Community Park. The Fair was held at these grounds from 1925 thru October 1967. During the early years of the Colored Fair at this location, high school football games were held at the Fair and Black schools were given part of the school day off to attend the fair and were admitted free. There was harness racing, bare-back mule racing, and foot races on the last day of the fair each year. Areas Black schools displayed exhibits in the exhibit hall. The Greenville County Colored Fair Association changed its name to Greenville County Progressive Fair Association in the early 1960's due to the relaxation of racial tension, changes in Jim Crow laws, and because several whites were now attending. After Martin Luther King was murder in April 1968, White carnival owners refused to bring their shows and rides to the Black fair for fear that Blacks would riot and destroy their equipment. The last fair was held in October 1967. The president of the Fair Association in 1967 was A.J. Whittenburg; the secretary was Rev. U.S. G. Sweeney, Jr.
Efforts were made thru 1970 to bring in a carnival without success. From 1970 thru the early 80's, various individuals and baseball teams rented the area to have functions. Once those functions stopped, the property went unused for several years and bushes, weeds, and unwanted trees took over the property.
In early 1990, the President of the Greenville County Progressive Fair Association, Rev. Willar Hightower, suggested that the 13 acre property that belonged to the Fair Association be donated to the Reedy Fork and Rocky Creek Baptist Churches. After much discussion and several meetings, the property was donated to the two Churches with the understanding that the property would be used to enhance the communities for Rocky Creek and Reedy Fork. The two churches accepted the property in a joint meeting of the Churches held on August 21, 1990. In 2000, a Committee with six members from both Churches was formed to clear, renovate, and maintain the property. In 2007, 75% of the 13-acres were cleared; all dilapidated structures were torn down and removed. The Park currently has one shelter, a pump house, a 1/3 mile oval track, a horseshoes pit, a basketball goal, a baseball/softball/soccer field and several acres of clear shady space. Plans are underway to acquire restrooms and other amenities such as outdoor basketball, tennis, volleyball, and handball courts, more horseshoes pits, a walking trail, and play areas for kids and youth. Since this is a private/public Park, DONATIONS are both welcomed and needed. The Park is a family-based designation for weekdays or weekend outings, picnics, reunions, and outdoor sport activities. The Park can be rented for daytime and nighttime events.