In May 1938, Brooklyn College hosted its first annual Country Fair to celebrate the College’s birthday with games and festivities. The Fair was spearheaded by Adele Bildersee, the Dean of Women, to promote student life on campus and to raise money for graduate students in need. The Graduate Scholarship Fund was originally established in 1932 by Bildersee and funded by the profits from the College’s cafeteria. When this funding source fell short, Bildersee established the Country Fair to raise money and provide students with a yearly celebration filled with an array of games, dances, costumes, performances, and College traditions.
The theme was chosen as a way to reproduce the carnival atmosphere created when the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus pitched their tents on the site that would become the campus of Brooklyn College. More than a thousand people enjoyed the festivities of the first Country Fair and by the 1950s the Country Fair had a budget of over $15,000 with 30 committees involved in the planning of events, contests, games, shows, and concession stands. The Country Fair remained widely popular among Brooklyn College students, faculty, and the community until its decline in the early 1990s.
Students and faculty looked forward to the annual Fair and its many traditions. On the day the fair was to be held (a date in May closest to the College’s birthday of May 15, 1930) the school would call for a half day holiday and classes would be cancelled early to start the celebration. Each year, a Country Fair King and Queen were chosen after a campus wide contest. Other traditions included hay-rides, fashion shows with outlandish costumes, barn dances, and a faculty/student softball game.
The final Country Fair took place on October 14, 1994, celebrating the College’s 64th birthday. Although the Country Fair is no longer celebrated, the joyful elements that embodied the Fair from 1938-1994 will remain a significant part of Brooklyn College’s history.