4,000 Joined in the Celebration
Bonham Daily Favorite, August 14, 1994
Reportedly the biggest parade ever seen on Bonham streets set the stage for the three day extravaganza engineered by Will H. Evans in his "Party for Fannin County." The parade was only just a sample of what was to come. Over the next three days the citizens of Fannin County were entertained royally in a series of special programs. Two different sources reported that attendance at the party exceeded 40 thousand persons. Certainly not at one time or at all programs but probably an aggregate of 40 thousand for each of the activities.
Each of the programs presented centered around a central theme arranged by Evans The entertainment, in a variety of forms, followed each of these themes. Most of the programs were held at the R. and R. American Theater. Evans had arranged with the proprietors of the movie theater for the showing of three popular movies of the day, "The Town That Forgot God," "Humoresque," and "School days."
A major portion of each programs consisted of orations of different sorts. Evans imported four celebrated speakers to join his favorite Fannin Countian, Sam Rayburn, to stir the crowds with displays of splendid oratory. Joining Congressman Rayburn was B.A. McKinney, Governor of the Federal Reserve Bank, Dr. A.C. Parker of Dallas, Dr. L.N.D. Wells of Dallas, Congressman Horton W. Summers of Dallas, and Fritz Lanham, Congressman from Fort Worth.
Other speakers from the area also appeared on the platform such as the winners of the county-wide Declamation Contest, newspaperman Ashley Evans, Bonham Mayor L.K. Hargrove, Honey Grove editor and publisher James H. "Buttermilk" Lowery.
Not all of the programs were of a serious nature. Each theatre program also contained a wide variety of musical selections ranging from vocal solos, quartet performances, violin, cornet, piano, and organ solos, and dance presentations. Most of this talent was of the home-grown variety .
Orchestral concerts were also very popular. For the party four orchestras were engaged, The Silver Cornet Band, The Spizzerinktum Orchestra, Texas Harmony Five Orchestra from Honey Grove, and The Jazzerinktum orchestra,
Among the talented musical performers by far the most popular was a young five year old prodigy from Honey Grove, Edwin Donaldson. Donaldson had been playing the piano since the age of three and delighted each of the audiences with a dazzling display of his genius.
Humorous skits and readings were also popular. Bonham Fire Chief A.J. Stevenson and a Mr. Carson did a Mr. Sheen and Mr. Gallagher routine, based on the popular vaudeville comedy team. Mrs. Victoria Reese presented several humorous readings. According to The Bonham Daily Favorite the presentation that evoked the biggest reaction was the elaborate wedding stages on the next to last night during program number 11 .
Little detail about the wedding was given but it appears to be a burlesque of the rite of matrimony or perhaps even a womanless wedding. The paper reported that several famous persons were in attendance including Mme. Rollinoff Bollinsky and her famous Russian wolfhound and Dr. Gallina, famous surgeon who offered one free operation on the one, in the audience, most worthy of assistance .
Not all of the programs were limited to the stage of the theater. An "Old Fiddler"s contest was held on the east side of the courthouse. An outdoor concert by the Texas Harmony Five was staged the first night followed by the address by Dr. Parker of Dallas.
The second night Congressman Summers' address was delivered from the special stage erected on the south side of the courthouse. This was followed by a variety of musical performances .
Two baseball games were staged at the park on North Main and a kite flying demonstration was given at the ball park also.
In the early evening of the final day the party began to wind down to a close, with the final two activities taking place on the public square. The 17th program at the American Theater featured an organ recital by Lottie Ray Collett, vocal selections by a male quartette, and the reading of a poem by Mrs. D.M. Lilly entitled, "Where Bonham Begins." The poem reads, in part, "Where the days are longer and the South breeze stronger, That's where Bonham begins. Where people linger the while and you see folks smile, That's where Bonham begins. The women are prettier and the men are wittier, The lads and lassies are gay. Where Will H. Evans name is coupled with fame, Greetings to each he extends. You had a welcome hearty to his three day party, That's where Bonham begins."
Following this was the presentation that the Bonham Daily Favorite termed the most outstanding and interesting feature of the party, the demonstration and water fight by the Bonham Fire department. Following the water battle the American LaFrance pumper was driven up for a demonstration and a stream of water was shot high into the air reaching almost to the top of the courthouse.
At 8 p.m. the final performance began with a cornet quartette featuring Charlie and George Inglish, twin grandsons of Bonham founder Bailey Inglish. The final address was by the Honorable Sam Rayburn and was entitled, "What the Country Owes the Flag, and What the Flag Means to the Country."
A patriotic tableau was presented by a group of young Bonham ladies. The party came to an end with the crowd standing and singing "America."
The Pathe Newsservice filmed much of the three day celebration and the films were shown nation-wide over the next several months. Will H. Evans certainly did put Bonham, Texas on the map.
[Note: Photos from this event by Erwin Smith can be viewed on the Amon Carter Museum website.]
Fannin County Museum of History
One Main Street, Bonham, Texas