Harvest Home Fair History
Early in its history, the Kiwanis Club of Cheviot-Westwood was confronted with a community challenge that it accepted at the urging of its charter president.
Only a year after Kiwanis was established as the community’s newest organizational the demise of the community’s oldest organization appeared inevitable. Bankrupt and with aging leadership that recoiled from the challenges of changing times, the Green Township Harvest Home Association directors voted to discontinue the annual festivals, which had been held on the last Thursday in August for 78 years without a miss, during times of war and peace, prosperity and depression.
Enoch and Ashsah Carson had settled on 20 acres of Green Township land in 1806 with their eight children. When their first harvest was abundant out of this fertile land, they invited the other settlers to rejoice and give thanks for the harvest, and in a grove outside of their cabin they held the first of many annual “festivals.” The Green Township Agricultural Society was organized to hold the annual festival on Carson’s ranch from 1855-1859. Then the newly organized Green Township Harvest Home Association continued the Festival in Cheviot beginning on Friday, August 17, 1860 in Carson’s beautiful grove and yearly after that until 1939, when the young men of the infant Kiwanis Club of Cheviot-Westwood took over the reigns for the 79th annual one day festival. The Green Township Agricultural Society held the deed for the Harvest Home Park and this ownership was transferred to the City of Cheviot with the stipulation that the City of Cheviot permit the Kiwanis Club of Cheviot-Westwood to use the Harvest Home Park for the Fair.
Dr. Foster Williams, whose grandfather, Dr. Peter Williams, M.D. and father, Dr. John Williams, M.D., were presidents of the old Green Township Harvest Home Association, became the first chairman of the Kiwanis committee. He continued in that capacity for 32 years when he became Chairman Emeritus in September, 1970. John J. O’Rourke, our club’s first president, was General Manager of the first 18 festivals until Oreste Barone took over in 1958 for the next 13 years. Fos and John accepted the “lumber, the seats, ropes, flags, tables, and building” at Harvest Home park and started working on the 79th festival. Lacking operating cash, it was necessary for the Kiwanians to raise a “starter fund” to underwrite the first festival. $270.50 was subscribed by individual Kiwanians and community business establishments with the largest contribution of $25.00 from the Western Hills Publishing. With that boost, the first efforts of our young club wound up with $112.25 in the black. Some of the “Display Exhibits” the first year were Vitt and Stermer, Western Hills Press, Rebold Funeral Home and Wullenweber Motors. Gate receipts were $477. The largest expense item was advertising and printing, $149.56, by the Western Hills Press.
The first major decision under Kiwanis management in 1940 was to extend the festival to two days in an effort to provide more time for 4-H and other youth activities and a more effective means of raising funds for its youth and community program. On the recommendation of Mayor Edward C. Gingerich, Cheviot Council approved the Kiwanis request to extend the park use from one to two days. The dates were changed at that time to the Friday and Saturday after Labor Day. Even with 25 cents admission fee, the festival grew in participation, attendance, and revenue slowly but consistentiy until it reached a peak of net earnings of $2,388 in 1948. The first serious weather adversity came in 1950 when a deluge washed out the Friday evening and swamped the Saturday event. In desperation, the Kiwanians decided on the first-time-ever Sunday rain date but that only yielded a net profit of $296.35 for that year. With Cheviot officials and public concurrence the 92nd Annual Festival, in 1951, became the first three-day event.
In 1951, the first three day festival brought new attendance and new proceeds records. The $4,028 net profit enabled the Club to appropriate $3,000 for developing the Harvest Home Park baseball diamonds and lighted horse show arena. These were the first of many Kiwanis-funded improvements at the historic Harvest Home site. The $5,970.84 net in 1952 was the highest yield until 1961, when $6,898.00 was realized. By 1968, $19,837.00 was raised but profits waxed and waned (a loss of $3,344.75 in 1965 – our only red ink). It wasn’t until the last 26 years that the Fair has achieved its greatest potential, surpassing over $60,000 per year for Youth and Community programs. That’s when Charles W. Reusing took over as chairman and manager and tightened the Kiwanis belt on expenses and free-bees. Jack Weber, Jr., Chuck Mitchell, John Rathkamp, Tony Upton, Bill Small, and now Pastor Phil Dumke have continued the austerity program that Charlie started in 1972 after he began his 5 year chairmanship in 1971.
The Harvest Home Fair, as it is now billed, has come to be known as “the biggest littie fair in Ohio,” and probably the single largest Kiwanis project in the State and one of the largest in the nation; so wrote Al Huneke before he died. Indeed, so interlaced are Cheviot-Westwood Kiwanis and the Green Township Harvest Home Fair that the Club’s history which began 61 years ago is, in large part, the Harvest Home story which began 59 years ago! Our club has always relied totally on the proceeds of the fair to support our community efforts and we’ve come a long way, baby, from a 1939 profit of $112.25 to our best net of $97,205.05 in 1995. Harvest Home Fair profits went over the one million mark in 1988 and the 1997 Fair brought the profits to $1,695,507.66
Our Club's Major Community Contributions:
- Early 60’s – Kitchen and Bar remodeling, Harvest Home Park – $11,000.00
- 1968 – Enoch W. Carson Lodge, Harvest Home Park – $15,000.00
- 1974 – Tornado relief in Green Township, Sayler Park – $10,000.00
- 1976 – Dr. Foster Williams Playground, Harvest Home Park – $13,335.13
- 1977 – Concession stand and storage building, Kuliga Park – $25,000.00
- 1978-1982 – St. Francis-St. George Hospital – $55,534.18
- 1982-1984 – Earl Applegate Playground, Westwood School- $30,000
- 1985 – Three shelter buildings, Harvest Home Park- $57,355.86
- 1987 – Shelter, concession, restroom building, Gamble Nippert YMCA, $35,000
- 1990 – Dance barn refurbished at Harvest Home Park – $35,000
- 1992-1993 – Rehabilitation of Horse Show lights, ballfield, backstops, at Harvest Home Park – $21,390
- 1993 – Tot Lot & shelterhouse at Green Township Veterans Memorial Park -$45,000
- 1994 – Breast Imaging Center at St. Francis-St. George Hospital – $27,000
- 1996 – Paved road around perimeter of Harvest Home Park – $26,933.
- 1997 – Remodeled restrooms in lodge for handicapped – $8,015.
- 1998 – $65,650 for kitchen equipment at Nathaniel Greene Lodge.
- 2001 – $33,382 Multi-Sensory room at Margaret Rost School
- 2002 – $39,913 Refurbished Dr. Foster Williams Playground at Harvest Home Park
- 2003 – $50,000 Purchased House for Bethany House Women’s Shelter
- 2004 – $25,000 Shelter at Cheviot Fieldhouse
- 2006 – $27,600 Shelter at Ryan Commons
There's much more to the Harvest Home Fair than profits and projects.
The planning and work go on for a year. When Fair time rolls around we are all one big family. It’s a good time and there’s a lot of satisfaction in putting on the Fair. Cheviot-Westwood members give 2500 to 3000 volunteer hours each year at the Fair. The Thursday evening parade is truly a community venture with 200 units, 10 high school bands, 50 floats, and 5,000 neighbors enjoying the two hour extravaganza. An average of 40,000 people attend the fair. 7,250 exhibitors share their talents and accomplishments, peddling their wares or entertaining with games and music.
When the Kiwanis Club took over the Festival, the 1940 theme was “Boys and Girls of the Community”. The 1959 theme was “Harvest Home Centennial”.
Other Important Milestones:
The theme of our 1995 Fair was “Fiftieth Anniversary of Victory, World War II,” and our own Tom Griffin, a navigator with General Doolittle’s Raid on Toyko, was Grand Marshall of the Fair Parade.
The 1996 theme was “Music, Music, Music” and Andy Brady was Grand Marshall.
The 1997 theme was “Salute to Sixty Years of Community Service” to commemorate the Cheviot-Westwood Kiwanis sixtieth anniversary and 26 year member Nick Wersel, long time Parade Chairman, was the Grand Marshall.
The 1998 Theme was “Local Independent Businesses” and the Grand marshall was Ron Roth, a 38 year member.
4-H Club Participation
The 4H Clubs have been major participants in the Fair. We have been giving a 4-H college scholarship for 38 years. Initially a $200 scholarship was awarded in 1959 – today it is $1,000. It has been given in Dr. Foster Williams’ name each year.