Yankee Doodle Days are done (for now)

  • Draft horses Rex and Johnny participate in horse pull at Yankee Doodle Days in Charlemont in 2014, dragging around 7,000 pounds at the behest of owner William Malloy. RECORDER FILE PHOTO

  • The Shelburne Falls Military Band waits on their flatbed trailer for the Charlemont Yankee Doodle Days parade to begin. Recorder File Photo

Recorder Staff
Friday, February 16, 2018

CHARLEMONT — The annual Yankee Doodle Days summer festival has been canceled by the Friends of the Charlemont Fairground, because of difficulties in getting enough volunteers to help organize and run the event.

Friends of Charlemont Fairgrounds Vice-President Elise Skibik said the organization voted at a meeting last Sunday morning, just before the Chili Cook-Off, to cancel the fair.

“For now, there will not be a fair this year, but there still will be fundraising events to benefit and preserve the Charlemont Fairgrounds,” said Skibik.

Skibik said she joined the Friends group to help keep the traditional fair going. Yankee Doodle Days had been a three-day weekend fair until 2016, when it was canceled because there were too few people to help coordinate the event, and the long-time volunteers wanted more help.

“Our group is in need of a boost,” said Tammy Hicks, a 10-year volunteer for Yankee Doodle Days and the event’s coordinator for six years, told The Recorder in 2015. The event sometimes draws 4,000 visitors over the three days.

Hicks said that about 30 volunteers help out during the three-day fair itself, “but we need more people preparing for it.”

There are several fundraisers held throughout the year to raise roughly $10,000 to put on the fair, which included fireworks, a demolition derby, vendors, crafters and exhibitions.

Yankee Doodle Days was canceled in 2016 and then revived last year, as a one-day event.

Before Yankee Doodle Days, there was a Charlemont Cattle Show, started in 1850, and held in the meadows where the Hawlemont Regional School is now. The Cattle Show drew so many participants that it was moved to the 17-acre site that became the Charlemont Fairgrounds. The Charlemont Cattle Show was hosted by the Deerfield Valley Agricultural Society until 1934, when the rise of the automobile and the decreasing number of local farms were said to be factors in its demise.

The fair was resurrected in 1952 by the Lions Club as Yankee Doodle Days; then it died out in the early 1980s — because there were too few volunteers to keep it going. But in 1996, it was revived by local families who wanted their children to experience the fair they had grown up with and loved.

Skibik said she is hoping the Friends of the Charlemont Fairgrounds can “come full circle” and bring back an agricultural fair, within the next three to five years, that is similar to the original cattle show, with livestock and farming displays.