A delight for anyone with an interest in agricultural fairs, the late 19th century, or rural Americana.

The Life and Times of the Great Danbury State Fair

A charming chronicle of an annual fair in Danbury, Connecticut, begun by the late Gladys Stetson Leahy and recently finished by her grandson.

In 1956, John Leahy, the owner and general manager of the Great Danbury State Fair, convinced his wife to write its history. The first few chapters of the result are more about the Leahys’ domestic life than the fair itself, but the author’s gift for amusing anecdotes and telling details makes it eminently readable. Readers will be won over by the second page when she recounts her reaction to her husband’s sudden insistence that she write the book: “This wasn’t so bad. What if he had decided I ought to learn to play the clavichord? I have a friend whose husband, all unsolicited, brought home an Irish harp for her birthday.” She begins with the history of agricultural fairs in general before settling into the origin of Danbury’s in the late 19th century, and then she jumps to World War II, when wartime shortages forced its temporary closing. Her husband became the fair’s majority stockholder and general manager during that hiatus and oversaw its resumption in 1946. Despite fires, racing accidents, and bad weather, the fair thrived throughout the period covered by the author, who ends her section in 1956, encouraging readers to attend the fair themselves. After she found that it was too expensive to have the book published, she put the manuscript away in her attic, where her grandson found it after her death. Stetson later added a section covering the years from 1956 to 1981, including the fair’s demise, despite attempts by locals to save it. He’s a less-engaging writer than his grandmother, but he still moves the history along briskly, providing a different point of view on John Leahy and on the fair—that of a child who grew up amid its pageantry. He recounts travels with his stepgrandfather to other fairs and conventions as far away as Calgary, Alberta, and his increasing involvement in running the fair as he grew. His grief at the sale of the fairgrounds to a company that later built a shopping mall will sadden readers as well.

A delight for anyone with an interest in agricultural fairs, the late 19th century, or rural Americana.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9965674-5-9

Page Count: 312

Publisher: Emerald Lake Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 15, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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