The Jamestown Harvest Festival in October of 1920, 100 years ago, was the party that disproved the “the oft-repeated assertion that Jamestown does not know how to play,” according to a Jamestown Alert front-page article.
Reports indicated the event was the first harvest festival held in Jamestown and it was intended to be fun and a little crazy. In fact, an organizer of the event warned that anyone that “brought their dignity would be fined” in a preview article about the event.
“The throwing of confetti, blowing of horns, ringing bells and shouting was not confined to the children and many of Jamestown’s staid businessmen are a little hoarse this morning,” reported the Alert in a followup article the day after the party.
Things kicked off with a parade led off by a band from Jamestown College, now known as the University of Jamestown, that ended up at a “pavement dance.”
Not all of Jamestown’s streets were paved back then so this was a way of showing off the city’s more refined side.
But what made the event stand apart from other parades and dances in Jamestown was the fact it was a costume party.
The ladies of the Business and Professional Women organization showed up as gypsies carrying brooms with political signs of the day. One of the ladies did a gypsy dance around a campfire that was considered a “special feature” by the Alert.
Another group, The Bachelor Girls of Jamestown, traveled to the party all wearing red and white costumes.
I’m assuming there were no men traveling with them.
Some groups in matching costumes were workers for major employers in Jamestown.
The North West Telephone Girls, the telephone operators, all wore blue and white outfits decorated with bluebell emblems in honor of the inventor of the telephone.
A couple of the women employees of the Russell-Miller Mill showed up at the party made from flour sacks.
The party wasn’t just a dance but a number of other side shows, played for fun, around the pavement dance.
The Jamestown Business and Professional Women, remember they were dressed as gypsies, operated a palm reading tent with two “Madam Dazzles” rendering fortunes for a small contribution to their cause.
The dance and party were held right in the center of downtown Jamestown on the pavement of what is now First Street North with the band set up in front of the Gladstone Hotel.
It does sound like Jamestown did know how to play a century ago.