History of the Grandstand: Thousands delight at Grandstand Show

This week, let’s take a look back at the first grandstand show that the current grandstand ever hosted. Back in 1958, the grandstand was completed just in time for the fair –  and it was a landmark fair, celebrating the 75th anniversary of the city. What follows is a review of the very first grandstand show at what was then a newly completed grandstand, originally printed in the July 17, 1958 edition of the Yorkton Enterprise.

The Tim Drake Agency – the dark horse of show business – won going away by several lengths before 16.000 highly-delighted fair visitors that packed Yorkton’s new $100,000 grandstand for eight performances on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon and evening.

Hazel Randall, who had much to do with putting this show together in Kansas City for Mr. Drake and who was the femsee of the two-hour sparkling, diversified bill, brought a new, enthusiastic group of artists to Yorkton that gave  fair-goers a lot for the one-dollar admission charge. Granted, apart from Tom and Tiny Twist, aerial acrobats, they had no name acts, just the same they had a group of performers who are talented, willing to work and proved highly entertaining, which is most important.

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We caught the second show Tuesday evening and were a part of the human jam outside of the main grandstand gate for a full hour awaiting the first show to end and then for the big crowd of 4,000 to empty the stand, bleachers and every available space “down front.” To our amazement, the second show drew another record crowd, and it was 10:30 p.m. before Miss Randall got her presentation under way again.

While the “pros” are deserving of the kind words we’ve had for them, we must hasten to pay tribute to the Lions Club band under the baton of Readman George and the three pretty, talented majorettes – Jill McCord, Sharon Weinmaster and Sharon Hunter – who truly turned in a most delightful, talented performance all three days of the show that showed that they had trained long and well.

“The Show Band” was small, but by George it was good. An electric organ, trombone and drums had a trio of master musicians to manipulate them and they provided  simply amazing  music. Not only was the music good, but they had the spirit of the show and whoever did the selection and arranging must be top-notchers.

The costumes and scenery were excellent. So was the lighting. But what was much appreciated – and another innovation – there wasn’t a smutty crack in the entire bill. It was a great “family show.” And while on the matter of “flash,” it must be recorded that Miss Randall was a one-gal fashion show in herself. Her gowns were truly delightful.

Jed Starkey and his “Southern Gentlemen” – a quintet of instrumentalists and songsters – got the show away to a fast, pleasing start with two banjos, violin, guitar and bass the instruments in use.

And out of this, just as in the big TV shows, came Cousin Jed Starkey and his flute and a lot of comedy that had the big crowd rolling in the aisles.At this point we were introduced to the top starts of the show when Tom and Tiny Twist came on with Tarzan the “Big Ape,” who amazed the audience with his cycling, acrobatic and balancing tricks. But it is not quite so amazing that Tarzan is so good when you learn later the ability of the well-named “Twists” who trained him and worked with the big fellow.

Marge Kelly gave a new and sparkling bit of intriguing entertainment with her “Little Stars on Strings.” We were treated to cute Raggedy Ann dolls, “Pedro” – the “pup who didn’t,” and Dr. Bones – all cute and funny.

Eddie Fay’s “boxing cats” who have performed on the Ed Sullivan show, were certainly unique and it must have taken a great deal of patience on the part of Mr. Fay to train the cats to box but, frankly, we feel he might do better – from the standpoint of showmanship – to train animals that would be more attractive. This was not exactly the act we saw years ago at New York’s famous Leon and Eddie’s (now defunct) night club.

Shorty James “the tight guy on the loose wire” got a good hand from the crowd, but he’s no Hubert Castle. In fact, no one is. Maybe that’s our trouble. We’ve seen Castle so often, and other top-notchers in this slack-wire business, that “Shorty” looked a bit “under par” for his bill.

The Banjo Boys, from the act that opened the show, delighted fans with their instrumental, vocal duet.

Kelly, “the wonder dog,” was an old dog that is said to have long performed in movieland but he would have seemed better to us had he not had this celluloid build-up. He was a good dog but a far cry from what we’d expect from “a Hollywood star.”

The Engfords – father, mother and daughter – presented what we well could pick as one of the two best acts in the show. As acrobats, aerialists and contortionists they deserve a better rating than they seem to have at present in show business. We believe this is a terrific act by real high-class stars.

It was at this point that miss Randall entertained with her fine soprano voice by presenting a couple of familiar songs.

Then we got Tom “the king of variety” with his Australian bull whip and “a boy from the audience” plus pretty Sherry and two singing dogs. This act was good but proved the only act to drag in the entire performance. Maybe is Tom is carrying more weight than he imagines. For our money the “boy” was the best performer.

Then came the “piece de resistance” when we got Tom and Tiny Twist doing the rare, sensational and highly skilled balancing acts 30 feet up on a special apparatus with no safety nets beneath. This is truly an act worthy of the Ringling Circus variety.

Contrasting this was the performance of the Marimba Darlings that got the audience back to earth as five pretty young ladies played some ditties on the “hollow tubes” with hammers. They were nobly assisted by the stage band and all seemed to be good.

And the last “act” of the night we had Jimmy Troy, “comedy king of the air,” who gave the cash customers plenty of thrills, with laughs combined, on the high trapeze. Performing without safety devices the little, chunky lad was good.

We liked the finish Miss Randall put on the show with “Fiesta.” It was colorful, (especially from Tom Garey aon his horse with his red shirt and sombrero), the mmusic good and the flash excellent.

It was a good show. It gave the Fair Board – as well as the customers in the stands – a lot for their money.

© Copyright Yorkton This Week


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