Warner Park has had its name for one hundred years this year. In 1912, the park was renamed for Joseph H. Warner, Chattanooga commissioner of public utilities, grounds, and buildings. Mr. Warner led an effort to turn the privately-owned Olympia Park, a horse racetrack, into a public facility.
Over the years, Warner Park has meant different things to different people. The grounds now or in the past have included an amusement park, a rose garden, and zoo. Athletes have enjoyed softball, swimming, and tennis. Folks wanting recreation can have a picnic or exercise at the field house, which was built for a Rev.
Billy Graham revival. In the past, Mrs. Ruth Bird taught ceramics classes there. One can be green by dropping off items at Warner Park recycling.
For most of its years, Warner Park was known as a fairgrounds site of the Chattanooga Interstate Fair. A review of the souvenir program of the 1926 fair shows what a big event that it was.
A large group of citizens led by President Sam A. Conner organized the fair. Heads of departments included O.N. Smith over livestock and Ray Hart in charge of cow testing. The starting judge was F.S. Kirk.
Handing over fifty cents earned an adult admission to the fair, while children were admitted for twenty-five cents. The fair dates ranged from Saturday, September 25 through Saturday, October 2 with Sunday, September 26 being an off day for church. Hours were 9am to 11pm.
The midway featured the shows of Johnny J. Jones, a nationally known carnival promoter. Mr. Jones was called the “Mighty Monarch of the Tented World.” Since major rail lines have always been located near Warner Park, the Johnny J. Jones crew was able to unload their rail cars near the site.
The Interstate Fair was a mix of local agriculture and local and national performers. Chattanooga’s WDOD radio station, still in its early years of operation, sponsored Frank Worthy’s Orchestra at the fair. The local YMCA acrobatic troupe performed, as did Madam Bidini. Harking to the days of Olympia Park, there were harness and whippet races.
One can’t put on a fair without sponsors. The 1926 fair sponsors included the Hotel Patten as headquarters for fair visitors and concessioners. Stovall Hardware and Crisman Hardware had advertisements, as did Crown Laundry, the Lookout Shoe Hospital, and Warren Brothers painters and builders supplies.
The September 28, 1926 Chattanooga Times reported, “Ten Thousand Visitors Swarm into Fairgrounds.” Many either walked from nearby homes, or took the street car to Warner Park. On September 29, all banks closed at noon in order for customers to visit the fair. On October 2, the newspaper ran a column, “Last Day. If you haven’t seen the fair, come out today. There are ten big buildings of exhibits.”
The Interstate Fair was still in operation at Warner Park in the 1970’s. After selling advertisements in the community, the Hixson High Herald newspaper staff and I made a visit to the fair. In my mind, I can still see the elderly gentleman who operated one of the rides. He was tapping his foot, keeping the back beat with his fingers, and grinning as the Elvis tune “Burning Love” played on the speakers.
If you have memories of the Chattanooga Interstate Fair at Warner Park, please send me an e-mail at email@example.com.
Johnny J. Jones provided the midway entertainment at the 1926 fair.