It was a gala occasion back in 1903 when
the Salem Elks lodge sponsored a three-day celebration that
was Salem's first Cherry Fair. A festive air permea-ted the
town as industrial displays and exhibits decked the sides
of Court Street, games and contests were conducted at the
State Fairgrounds, a floral parade unfolded, and boat races
streaked the surface of the Willamette.
Mrs. B.O. Schucking, then Agnes Gilbert,
was the first queen who, with three princesses and two train
bearers, completed the Royal Court. An automobile bedecked
in cherry branches carried the royal party complete with parasols
to Willson Park where the coronation took place. The late
Henry W. Meyers placed the gold crown set in rubies and rhinestones
on the head of the Queen and presented her with the key to
In 1906, some of the first spirit of the
affair was altered as the event became more of educational
undertaking than a celebration. For, in that year, the Fair
was timed in conjunction with the midsummer meeting of the
Oregon Horticultural Society, which resulted in only a few
exhibits and cup awards for premiums. Salem became known as
the "Cherry City" as a result of the outstanding
exhibits at the Cherry Fair held July, 1907.
Arranged by the Marion County Horticultural
Society, this fair was held in connection with the fifth annual
convention of the Pacific Coast Association of Nurserymen.
It was these men who, after viewing the cherry exhibit, passed
a resolution declaring it to be "the greatest and finest
display of cherries known in history" and by unanimous
vote christened Salem the Cherry City.
The Salem Board of Trade arranged the Cherry
Fair held in 1908, having more of a festive spirit intro-duced
than in the previous year with a street carnival held at the
same time. The three-day events included baseball games (the
Senators), floats, band concerts and singing on electric cars,
fireworks, a military pa-rade and competitive drill, a reception,
a Grand Cherry Ball, and a fun Mardi Gras.
A baby parade was added to the agenda in
1911, and Marion Square became the pivot for all activity.
The Salem Board of Trade presented its last festival in 1912.
All of the previous fun-making was contin-ued that year, with
the addition of more night musical events.
After the Salem Cherrians were organized
in 1913, they were appointed the task of producing the annual
festival, which they did in the few years just preced-ing
the First World War. Except for a smaller fair held in 1922
as a hospital fund benefit, the Cherry Festival disappeared
from the calendar but not the memory of Salem citizenry.
Then came the great rebirth of the custom
which was once so closely associated with Salem. In 1947,
the Salem Cherryland Festival Association was formed, and
the wheel of local history rolled full circle. Sa-lem's summer
season was complete again with a festive, colorful Cherryland
Festival. Queen Martha DuRette of Gervais ruled that first
event in the second series with a court of ten princesses.
In 1948, the royal court was changed from eleven girls to
nine and, in1949, the court was reduced to five.
As the blooms appear in the central Willamette
Valley around Salem elating caravans of visitors come to enjoy
the three-day festival. This is the time the Cher-rians too,
blossom out in uniforms to greet their guests. Everybody loves
a parade and, in 1947, a Grand Parade was held at 10:00 a.m.
sharp with floats and high school bands. The following day,
a Children's Parade took place with lots of prizes and free
Included in the program for the three-day
event was a Horse Show, Cherryland pageants, Air Show, and
a Statewide Drill Team contest (drum and bugle corps). A magnificent
trophy, donated personally by Governor Douglas McKay, was
awar-ded to the best organization appearing in the annual
statewide drill team contest, a feature of the Cherry-land
After the 1950 festival, there is no record
of when they ceased to exist, but those who participated or
attended the festivities will have fond memories of them.
Compiled by Shirley Herrmann
Statesman Journal newspaper, Life section - Sunday January
History of Salem Cherry Festivals, Magee,
Margaret, brochure, Salem Public Library, 1950