Dairy Day was started in 1947 when a group of citizens were interested in getting a festival started again in Norris City. For a short time prior to that time, Norris City had a festival called Rooster Day, but it was not as big.
A group of citizens who were interested in a festival for Norris City got together in 1947 to plan the day. The Illinois Department of Agriculture had previously made a survey of the territory around Norris City. Their findings disclosed that the farm lands in the Norris City area were particularly adaptable to dairying. With this information in mind, the citizen festival committee in Norris City decided to buy registered heifers and give them away to various farmers on this particular day. Farmers registered, and a drawing was conducted on Dairy Day to see who got these heifers. This fall festival became known as Dairy Day and was scheduled to be held on the fourth Saturday of September each year. The event furthered dairying in the Norris City area. By giving away the registered heifers, the dairy livestock quality was improved.
I can remember back in the early 1950s when East Wabash Street in Norris City, which was often referred to as Produce Row or Chicken Row, was full of businesses selling feed for livestock and chickens, and buying cream, eggs, and chickens.
At one time in the 1950s, produce businesses were located at the southeast corner of East Wabash and South Division Streets, and on East Wabash Street, where the parking lot of the Cardinal Restaurant building is located, the Cardinal Restaurant building site, the Wonder Market site, and on the southeast corner of East Wabash and North Conger Streets. These businesses donated sacks of livestock and chicken feed to be given away at Dairy Day. People registered at the businesses for this feed and the other prizes that were given away in drawings on Dairy Day evening. I won a sack of chicken feed one year. I had chickens then in Norris City and sold the eggs.
Every village in this area had produce businesses buying cream and they, along with those from Norris City, brought 5 and 10 gallon cans of cream to the New York Central (Big Four) Depot at Norris City to be shipped out on the northbound 9:25 P.M. train to creameries in Danville, Terre Haute, and Chicago. My father, Charles Oliver, had the U.S. Mail and Freight contracts for Norris City. We had to be at the depot to load the mail on this train. The depot agent left at 5 p.m. The railroad company hired Dad to open the depot to let in passengers waiting for the train and to bill out freight being shipped on this train. Therefore, cream was included. I put the tags on the cream cans and loaded the cans on the train as soon as I got big enough to lift them.
We also had a dairy farm ourselves. I had a milk route in the west part of Norris City where I delivered bottles of milk, eggs, and butter.
It was decided to have a Dairy Day Queen. Up until 1951, Norris City clubs picked their candidates, and the queen was elected by dropping pennies in cans at businesses to indicate a vote for a particular girl. In 1951, the queen started to be chosen by out of town judges. The queen contests were discontinued for a short period of time once.
Formerly, one of the featured attractions of Dairy Day was the Horse Show, which was started by a group of men who were interested in horses for their show and pulling ability. In 1951, the Horse Show with its pulling contests were made a separate project and were moved to the Friday before Dairy Day, instead of being held on the Dairy Day Saturday. The Horse Show has since been discontinued.
For a short period of time, in the late 1970s and early 1980s period, Dairy Day was called the Fall Festival, but it then was returned to its original name of Dairy Day.
The Norris City Lion’s Club supervised Dairy Day for many years. It is now supervised by the Dairy Day Association. Thanks go to all who work to make Dairy Day possible each year.
If anyone has any information about or pictures of this area to share with the readers of these articles, please contact me at Edward Oliver, P. O. Box 456, Norris City, IL 62869, telephone 618-378-3176, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.