Thousands attend annual fair despite rain and heat

By Lynn R. Parks

Nature has not been kind to the Towne and Country Fair recently. For four of the last five festivals, it has rained. But that does not mean that the Labor Day-weekend festival will not continue, said Paula Gunson, director of the Chamber of Commerce of Greater Seaford, sponsor of the event. And the two thunderstorms that roared through this year’s fair, forcing the cancellation of performances as well as of the fireworks show set for Saturday night, did not spell failure. Despite the rain and a Saturday-afternoon heat index that reached 102 degrees, about 7,500 people attended the 10th annual fair, Gunson said. “The weather conspired against us again this year,” said Gunson. “But despite that, the crowd was almost the same as last year,” when the weather was good. Favorite activities were those that were set up in the shade, she said, including several that focused on life in the Civil War era, when the Ross Plantation was a working farm. Isaac Ross, a governor of Delaware and the owner of the plantation, was a slave-owner. Among the activities were reenactments of the lives of African-American soldiers of the 9th and 10th Calvary and 24th and 25th Infantry regiments, commonly called Buffalo Soldiers. The soldiers were recruited after the Civil War and fought on the American frontier as well as in the Spanish-American War, in Mexico, Cuba and the Philippines and during World War I and World War II. The reenactment group is based in Scottsdale, Ariz. Through the Delaware Humanities Forum, Clara Small from Salisbury University talked about the Underground Railroad. The Sankofa Dance Co., Wilmington, performed traditional African-American dances. There were also African-American storytellers.
“African-Americans were a big part of the Ross Plantation,” Gunson said. “We are making a big effort to include them in the festival.” She added that attendance by members of the black community was “not as much as we would like, but more than before.” The chamber will continue its focus on that area, she said. Friday evening, the fair got under way with a performance by the Seaford High School band. Attendance was scarce, Gunson said, probably because by the time people got home from work, a thunderstorm warning had already been posted. A performance by the singing group the Highlighters had to be cut off in the middle because of rain. On Saturday, activities went as planned until early evening, when a second thunderstorm rolled through the area. The talent show had to be shut down midway through, and a performance by Still Surfin’, specializing in music by the Beach Boys, was cancelled, as was the fireworks show that was to follow the performance. Gunson said that the chamber is working to arrange a performance by Still Surfin’, maybe for early next spring before the start of their performance season (the band usually performs from May through August). “We are not sure where or when, but we definitely want to bring them back,” she said. After the concert was cancelled, the band did about five songs for volunteers on the grounds. And “they are great. It could have been the Beach Boys up there singing. We will bring them back because they are such a super band.” Gunson said that chamber members will have to decide whether to continue starting the fair on Friday evening; this was the first time in its 10-year history that events were scheduled for Friday. But she anticipates that there will be an 11th annual fair. “The rain hurt us, and Saturday it was oppressive,” she said. “But the fair was still successful.”

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