In 1959, The Canterbury Ladies Benevolent Society (LBS) added a chicken barbecue to the “Canterbury Country Fair and Bazaar” it had been sponsoring for several years. The crowd swelled that year. Net income increased tenfold, from about $200 to more than $2,000. That was the beginning of the Canterbury Fair as we know it today.
Proceeds from the early fairs were used primarily to furnish and equip a “new vestry” or Parish House which opened in 1958. The former vestry was destroyed by a fire in 1943. That blaze also burned down the a church, a Grange or Union hall, and a store, all in Canterbury Center, and two nearby farm houses. A new church was opened on the site of the old one in 1946, its mortgage being at least partially paid off with funds earned by the LBS over several years.
The LBS members alone continued to sponsor and manage the fair, always on the last Saturday in July, until it became too large an event to manage by themselves. In 1966, the LBS was joined by a number of other Canterbury organizations, the PTA, the Fire Department and Auxiliary, the Canterbury Women’s Club and the church council and trustees, to produce and operate the fair, sharing the proceeds with a newly-created Canterbury Fund. The fund was used for scholarships and family emergencies.
The fair continued to grow and thrive and received recognition as part of a National Geographic Society listing of outstanding attractions nation-wide. The crowd was estimated at 10,000 people in 1981, its peak year.
*A map distributed by the National Geographic Society showing outstanding attractions in the United States lists the Canterbury Fair.