Back Of the Yards Fair


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Back Of the Yards Fair
Posted by: Kchi (---.dsl.chcgil.ameritech.net)
Date: May 10, 2011 09:46AM

Growing up in the 60's, I barely remember my uncle taking us to a big fair that I believe was called the Back of the Yards fair. Does anybody have any info on its history? Does it still exists? If not when did it end?

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Re: Back Of the Yards Fair
Posted by: Steve B. (74.7.39.---)
Date: May 10, 2011 12:03PM

I do not know the exact dates of operation, but I do know the "Back of the Yards Free Fair" ran from July 5th thru August 4th every summer at least from the mid 50s thru the mid 70s. It was on the northwest corner of 47th and Damen, which is now a strip mall. When the fair wasn't on, the property was used as a baseball field. Before that, it was an open garbage dump (early 1900s).
My friends and I spent a LOT of evenings there. It was organized by Joseph Meegan from the Back of the Yards Neighborhood Council, who by the way has an excellent web site with archive photos from the fair. From the top of the double Ferris wheel, one could see Lake Michigan on a clear day before sunset - if you weren't first blinded by the carbon arc searchlight that was next to the ride! I can still remember the exact layout and where all the rides and attractions were placed. My friend's parents won a 1956 Ford there. They would sell tickets all month long and draw the winning ticket on the last day of the fair. Great memories.

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Re: Back Of the Yards Fair
Posted by: captain54 (---.hsd1.il.comcast.net)
Date: May 10, 2011 01:56PM

I spent at lot of summers at the "Free Fair" as we called it.

The "Free" part was actually referring to "free admission", but I always remember paying for rides, games, etc. It could possibly have been totally free at one time or another, I'm not sure.

The demise of the "Free Fair" was due in large part to increased gang activity in the area, pretty much the same fate the Riverview Park suffered



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 05/10/2011 01:56PM by captain54.

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Re: Back Of the Yards Fair
Posted by: bowler (---.chipublib.org)
Date: May 10, 2011 04:10PM

Here is some info about the Free Fair:

[www.chicagotribune.com]

Apparently it still goes on (sort of) under the name "Back of the Yards Fiesta". It is not the same as the land on which it was held has been developed into a large strip mall which includes many stores and even the Back of the Yards Branch of the Chicago Public Library. See below:

[bync.org]

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Re: Back Of the Yards Fair
Posted by: daveg (130.36.62.---)
Date: May 10, 2011 04:49PM

Thanks for the links Rob. Our family made a trek to the free fair every year. Looking back on those times, I remember having fun at the fair with my brother, sister and cousins. And it was quite large, at least from a kid's view of the world. It was a "closer" Riverview for us although we made an annual journey to Western and Belmont. That was fun too.

Forgot to mention, if the breezes were from the east......... ;-)



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 05/10/2011 04:56PM by daveg.

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Re: Back Of the Yards Fair
Posted by: bowler (---.chipublib.org)
Date: May 10, 2011 04:53PM

Dave,

Is there any area of the city that you don't have a connection with? Amazing!

Rob

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Re: Back Of the Yards Fair
Posted by: daveg (130.36.62.---)
Date: May 10, 2011 05:08PM

bowler Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Dave,
>
> Is there any area of the city that you don't have
> a connection with? Amazing!
>
> Rob

Born and raised on the south side. mom and dad, even though working class, gave their kids as best a view of the world as they could. Didn't have a lot, but we were happy growing up. The world seemed different then.

Now the north side, that was a different country. I've learned a lot here and hope to learn more.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 07/27/2011 07:27AM by daveg.

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Re: Back Of the Yards Fair
Posted by: bowler (---.chipublib.org)
Date: May 10, 2011 05:32PM

Well said Dave!

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Re: Back Of the Yards Fair
Posted by: Richard Stachowski (---.dsl.chcgil.sbcglobal.net)
Date: May 10, 2011 05:57PM

Yes I am 75 this year and looked forward to the fair every year. It was a good place to meet girls for sure. It drew crowds and celeberaties like Mayor Daley and TV and radio personalities as well. I remember the bannana eating contest and cars being raffeld off.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 05/10/2011 05:59PM by Richard Stachowski.

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Re: Back Of the Yards Fair
Posted by: bwalsh (---.dsl.chcgil.sbcglobal.net)
Date: May 14, 2011 02:52PM

I loved going to the Free Fair! I got lots of autographs and pictures of baseball players, won goldfish (which actually lived a really long time!) and one time nearly fell out of a ride! My dad knew Joe Meegan having grown up in the Back of the Yards area himself. I do remember that the increased gang activity was the primary reason for the eventual demise of the Fair and sadly, other fun things like Riverview,

Dave, I'm a southsider too, but have been in most parts of the city. My parents made sure I saw as much as possible even though we didn't have much money either. They were older when I was born, hence, an only child, so I went everywhere with them. But, being older, they were able to give me a view of an even older Chicago from their memories.

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Re: Back Of the Yards Fair
Posted by: jak378 (---.dyn.embarqhsd.net)
Date: May 19, 2011 02:43PM

I remember clearly that sometime in the 50's the firs letter "F" in the word fair burned out. From that day my stepfather referred to the event as the "Free Air." Since ne had to pay for everything except admission he was basiically correct.

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Re: Back Of the Yards Fair
Posted by: waltk13 (---.dsl.chcgil.sbcglobal.net)
Date: June 01, 2011 06:04PM

I lived on the other side of the Damen Avenue Overpass in the McKinley Park neighborhood. We went to the “Free Fair” every summer after we moved into the neighborhood. Sometime in the late sixties the name was changed to “Fun Fair”, allegedly because of a lawsuit, and it did fit better since, as mentioned in an earlier post, the only thing free was admission. It was easy to blow weeks of allowance in one night if you weren’t with your folks to pick up the tab. As a teenager we walk the overpass (over a mile itself) to and from the fair, even after closing and didn’t worry about the time as long as we made it home by curfew (It’s 10:30 do you know where your children are?).

In the summer of 69, a year after the Democratic Convention, I remember getting off the bumper car ride at the back of the ride and exiting by the carney’s trailers. I saw two portly Chicago cops who had a teenager not much older than me and with hair not much longer, pinned against a trailer and they were taking turns punching him out, I boogied out of there as quick as I could before they saw me and made me their next target. After that I still wasn’t afraid of walking across the overpass all the way home at night, but I was sure terrified of the cops.

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Re: Back Of the Yards Fair
Posted by: wow1029 (---.hsd1.tn.comcast.net)
Date: July 26, 2011 08:05PM

does anyone remember that sign on the corner of 47th & damen with the flag on it? i'm looking for a picture.i forgot what it said.it was where the ballfields were.why did they get rid of the damen overpass? i remember it stunk over there lol

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Re: Back Of the Yards Fair
Posted by: Steve B. (74.7.39.---)
Date: July 28, 2011 12:01PM

The upper portion of the sign had red, white and blue lights picturing the American flag. Below that was a space for removable letters that advertised different Back of the Yards events throughout the year, such as the Free Fair. Set back about 20 feet from the intersection of 47th and Damen, the sign faced east. If you go to bync.org and choose MEDIA - PHOTO GALLERIES - FREE FAIR PHOTOS FROM THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE, you will see a slide show of 32 pictures from different years of the Free Fair, but no pictures of the sign.
I imagine the Damen overpass was taken down due to the number of accidents in the winter. Being elevated, it froze over every time it snowed and the city could not keep up with salting. Imagine coming down the ice-covered overpass and seeing a red light at the bottom of the hill. Yikes! That thing got my heart beating fast more than once. And there was nowhere to pull over. If your car broke down or had a flat tire, you blocked a lane of traffic.
Steve B.

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Re: Back Of the Yards Fair
Posted by: jak378 (---.dhcp.embarqhsd.net)
Date: July 28, 2011 02:32PM

Steve B.'s comments about the overpass are pretty much on target. In addition, the city was unable to maintain the thing properly. All the salt that was sprad on it took a toll on the structure, and it simply became too expensive to keep. It was also an eyesore because of the damage to the structure.

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Re: Back Of the Yards Fair
Posted by: Richard Stachowski (---.dsl.chcgil.sbcglobal.net)
Date: July 28, 2011 03:21PM

Does anybody remember the tavern and upstairs bowling alley at 4801 s. honore?

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Re: Back Of the Yards Fair
Posted by: Richard Stachowski (---.dsl.chcgil.sbcglobal.net)
Date: July 28, 2011 03:24PM

ALL YOU BACK OF THE YARDS. What grade school did you all attend? I went to SS Cyrils at 50th & Hermitage and graduated in 1951.

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Re: Back Of the Yards Fair
Posted by: Steve B. (74.7.39.---)
Date: July 28, 2011 03:59PM

Seward School, 4600 S. Hermitage - class of January '62 - go Maroon and Gold!

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Re: Back Of the Yards Fair
Posted by: wow1029 (---.hsd1.tn.comcast.net)
Date: July 28, 2011 04:43PM

I swear that sign said in cursive Starch as in National Starch but that was further down around 35th Rockwell.I think back in 75 @ Back Of The Yards Little League on 55th Oakley they had Little League Illinois Sectional Championship.BOTY Little League was seperate from Back of the Yards Baseball which was 47th Damen.

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Re: Back Of the Yards Fair
Posted by: jak378 (---.dhcp.embarqhsd.net)
Date: July 29, 2011 11:12AM

St. Basil, Class of 11955.

I don't remember a Little League at 55th and Oakley, but there was one at 61st or 62nd and Seeley or Oakley, on the edge of Pennsylvania RR property. I believe that one eventually moved to 67th and east of Cicero. If there was one at 55th and Oakley that may have come later.

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