The Year Without a Fair

News Events

1957 was a wetter-than-normal year. The abundance of moisture contributed to a virulent outbreak of a scourge which caused half of Ottawa county to be quarantined, and which also caused the cancellation of the 1957 county fair.

Anthrax outbreak in Welch, July 22, 1957

The first indicator of trouble was an outbreak in Welch.

No anthrax in Ottawa county, says county agent. July 25, 1957

Local farmers were justifiably concerned, but the county agent assured them that “all is well!” just like the ROTC officer in Animal House. However, cases soon started appearing in western Ottawa county, and on August 2, this story was across the front page:

Anthrax quarantine in effect, August 2, 1957. Click to enlarge.

Dairy farmers were also affected by the quarantine.

Milk trucks stopped during 1957 anthrax quarantine. August 4.

The quarantine area missed most of Miami itself, but it did get as close as the fairgrounds. Therefore, a decision was made to cancel the fair and horse races.

1957 Ottawa county fair canceled due to anthrax quarantine

As the article points out, this was the only non-war cancellation of the event since it began in 1916.

By mid September, the epidemic had played itself out. About 1,000 head of livestock were lost in Craig, Mayes, and Ottawa counties. Most quarantines were lifted by September 17, although some farms remained isolated for several more weeks until every trace of infection was gone.

Thus ended a year made sadly unforgettable by those who remember it. And when terrorists attempted to release anthrax spores in 2001, some terrible memories must have been rekindled.

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