115 years ago around this time of year, as October became November, Mansfield was the scene of a unique and spectacular multi-day event called the “Feast of Ceres.” The idea of “a colossal exposition of the industries and possibilities of Mansfield” was the brainchild of the Mansfield Mercantile Association early in 1907, and it took months of labor and innumerable people to plan and execute, beginning with involving the whole community in choosing just the right name for the grand event .
Naming a Festival
The Mercantile Association decided to host a contest to determine the name of the planned festival, its “hope and pride.” As advertising went, this was apparently a good strategy, because name suggestions came “flooding” in to the offices all in search of the perfect name that would earn the recognition of the Mercantile Association. None of the unsuccessful suggestions have survived, but the winning name “Feast of Ceres” was sent in by one Miss Anna Snyder of Wood Street, who was a teacher in Mansfield. Miss Snyder won the ten dollar prize for her suggestion, and her suggestion was praised for its appropriateness in the newspapers:
“The name is particularly appropriate for the great street fair to be held in Mansfield next fall. The name is in honor of Ceres, the goddess of harvests, loved and honored by the ancient Greeks and Romans. Ceres was the daughter of Saturn and Rhea and dwelt in Olympus till she was incensed by the abduction of her two daughters. She wore a garland of corn [grain] and held a sceptre in her hand. When the people received her hospitably she smiled on them and brought them bounteous harvests. The Mansfield Mercantile Association will erect a temple in which they will have an altar where they will lay their costly sacrifices and pray the goddess, Ceres, to send a bountiful harvest and a big crowd to the fair.”Mansfield Daily Shield, 23 May 1907, page 2.
Different images of the goddess were created and used by advertisers around Mansfield to tie into the theme of the festival, like this depiction of the goddess from an ad by the A. C. Lantz Company on Fourth Street.
Mansfield Daily Shield, First Feast of Ceres Edition 26 October 1907, page P04.
The Feast of Ceres involved many different opportunities for revelry. The highlight of the Feast was to be the industrial parade, featuring the manufacturers and businesses in the city and county, but other activities planned included a band tournament, a horse parade, a parade of the German societies of Mansfield, free shows with acrobats and trapeze performances, and a masked carnival.
Mansfield Daily Shield, 08 October 1907, page 2.
The Goddess is Crowned
The biggest event at the Feast of Ceres was the crowning of the goddess, who was selected by popular vote. Several Lutheran pastors were “bitterly opposed” to the crowning, and published a resolution that the crowning was “heathenish in its whole bearing and utterly out of keeping with this enlightened age and the name of this city of churches” . Despite the objections, a lavish ceremony was planned to begin the final afternoon of the Feast. It was intended that the queen would be paraded to Central Park with her maids of honor and flower girls. In Central Park, there was a large platform that she would be enthroned upon, and she would be serenaded by 400 schoolchildren singing harvest and patriotic songs.
Unfortunately, as one newspaper put it, “the goddess of rain and the Goddess of the Feast clashed and the latter was vanquished,” and the grand reveal of the Goddess was dampened by rain. Even though the expected thronging crowds did not appear, the procession and performances were held, and in what was apparently a great surprised, the Goddess who had won the vote was revealed to be Miss Nellie Lawrence of Daisy Street, “one of the city’s handsomest young women” .
After the Feast
Although there was speculation that the Feast of Ceres would become an annual event, it was never held again. This may have been a result of the timing. In 1908, the city was very busy with planning the celebration of the city’s centennial. For whatever reason, the Feast of Ceres was a monumental event that occupies a unique space in Mansfield history, as a grand celebration of the manufacturing and industry of the city and county.
- Mansfield Daily Shield, 26 October 1907, page 2
- Mansfield Daily Shield, 28 October 1907, page 2
- Mansfield Daily Shield, 08 October 1907, page 2