Old English gadrian, gædrian "unite, agree, assemble; gather, collect, store up" (transitive and intransitive), used of flowers, thoughts, persons; from Proto-Germanic *gaduron "come or bring together, unite" (cognates: Old English gæd "fellowship, companionship," gædeling "companion;" Middle Low German gadderen; Old Frisian gaderia; Dutch gaderen "to gather," gade "spouse;" German Gatte "husband;" Gothic gadiliggs), from PIE *ghedh- "to unite, join" (see good (adj.)). Change of spelling from -d- to -th- is 1500s, reflecting earlier change in pronunciation (as in mother, weather, father). Related: Gathered; gathering.
Indigenous people gather in circles to share stories and spirituality. Several tribes come together to share resources and socialize and to hold competitive games. Such simple gatherings evolved to organized activities for economic, political, and social purposes. Who knew that when two unrelated individuals first decided to formalize a relationship for economic and/or social purposes the meeting would eventually expand into gatherings - like the Olympics or a fair - in which the world could participate? History tells us the ancient Roman calendar was loaded with at least weekly public sponsored feriae (holidays) to honor different gods. Meetings at east-west trading junctures in the eastern Mediterranean lead to the creation of permanent agoras and souks for the trading of goods and for exchanging ideas and events.
|Art by Dan Escott|
The adoption of Christianity throughout Europe, after the fall of the Roman Empire, resulted in the adaptation of Roman collective activities to the purposes of the Christian church. Religious institutions were well aware of the value of honoring saints and ritualizing practices suitable to their constituents in rural communities. Sundays became the day people came to pray and trade Gatherings that were located at crossroads often helped to establish and grow towns that attracted traveling peddlers and entertainers. As both the exchange and the town grew, the markets became more organized and regulated, of course, by guilds and by governments.agriculture and domestic goods.
In the medieval period, fairs were popular. These were held less often than markets, were larger, and lasted several days. In large communities, local governments or religious organizations organized these events. The merchandise at the fair was more varied and often more valuable than in simple market places. Visitors and entertainers came from greater distances. Contests, both scientific and physical, were featured and later, as representative governance became a reality, political stump speeches became a feature at markets.
These gatherings, small and large, were incorporated into the culture of the new world. The first North American fair was held in Windsor, Nova Scotia in 1765. It is still operating 250 years later. Reflecting the rural nature of early America, the first U.S. agricultural fairs were in New England but they spread rapidly throughout the States. Elkanah Watson, a New England farmer, earned the title, "Father of US agricultural fairs" by organizing the Berkshire Agricultural Society and “creating an event (known then as a Cattle Show) in Pittsfield, Massachusetts in September 1811. It was more than just an exhibit of animals – it was a competition, with prize money ($70) paid for the best exhibits of oxen, cattle, swine and sheep.”
Though these fairs evolved into large county and State sponsored events, local small town community group gatherings flourished in America under the sponsorship of church, civic, and school organizations. These groups gathered the community through the sponsorship of ice cream socials, holiday bazaars, rummage sales, health screenings, and so forth. One civic organization especially focuses on the small communities. The first Ruritan club was chartered in 1928 in The Ruritans (meaning rural and small town life) is a volunteer organization that often works with youth - FFA, 4-H, and Boy and Girl Scouts – and is active in Rockingham County.
Our local area has always had competitive, innovative, and proud agriculture and animal husbandry traditions. The many small villages in Rockingham County that once held events to bring the community together have now turned these gatherings into once a year community celebrations and encourage outsiders to come into their midst. Also, now once a year, we celebrate “Court Days” a relic from the early 1800s that provided a once-a-month place around the Courthouse for people to sell horses and agricultural products, settle legal affairs, and indulge in hard drink with companions. Today, Court Square is a place to gather the community for the 4th of July and New Year’s Eve celebrations. The agricultural aspect of Court Days evolved in 1892 into the first agricultural fair at Assembly Park north of Harrisonburg. After several incorporations and relocations, it moved in 1980 to its present location on Route 11 south of Harrisonburg. The Rockingham County Fair is one of approximately 3,200 agricultural fairs in the U.S and is the largest Virginia agriculture county fair. In 2015, the Fair is August 17 to 22.
by Diane Rafuse and C. Metz