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A Look Back at the Sacred Heart Fair

Guest Contributor - Joe Evans

Editor's Note: The current pandemic restrictions caused the cancelation of the Sacred Heart Fair this year. Photographer Joe Evans helps us recapture the memories and excitement with some of his favorite images from past fairs.

I learned how to develop and print black and white pictures when I joined the photography club back in seventh grade and have taken more than a million pictures in my lifetime. I have five large plastic totes full of prints and negatives and a dozen external hard drives loaded with digital images. My first camera was a polaroid that my parents gave me for my graduation present in 1976. A few years later I bought a used Pentax 35mm camera at Zerns Market in Gilbertsville. By 1984 I had a wife, three kids, and a mortgage and was shooting a roll or two of film every week. My wife said I needed to either take less pictures or figure out how to make some money with them. I started scanning the help wanted adds and got a job as a wedding photographer for Bridaltown in Fairview Village. I shot several hundred weddings for them over the next five years.

When my children were a little older and started becoming involved in Cub Scouts and sports, I often took pictures of those activities and would take some of them to our local newspaper office – The Spring-Ford Reporter - and they would print them in the paper. In 1986 they gave me a part time job covering local municipal meetings and sports. The best thing about that job was that I could have all the film I wanted and had 24 hour access to the darkroom to develop and print them.

In the early 1990’s I started stamping the date that the picture was taken on the back of all of the prints when I’d get them developed, so when I find a picture it’s easy to tell when it was taken. With the dawn of the 21st century digital photography started to become popular. But I swore that I’d never give up shooting film. Many times I had come across an old negative and could see that it was an interesting picture and I could get a print made from it. I knew that would never happen with a CD… the most common method of saving digital pictures at the time. But by 2004 the quality of digital imaging had evolved to the point that you could make images with similar quality to a 35mm negative. There were also several other advantages to digital photography, especially with the internet becoming a part of every day life. From the time I started shooting digitally, every picture I’ve taken is saved with the date as part of the image file name. This makes it very easy to tell when they were taken and to sort them chronologically.

In the early 1990’s Sacred Heart Church in Royersford started having their Community Fair. In 2012 there was an ad in our church bulletin looking for a volunteer to take pictures during the fair. The photojournalist in me couldn’t resist and I became the “official fair photographer”. Each year I take several thousand pictures, then pick out a few hundred to post on Facebook and the parish website. I always make a few rounds to take pictures of all of the volunteers that help run the various booths and games, but my favorites are the action shots. It’s a challenge to get good pictures of moving people; and the faster they’re moving, the more rewarding it is to get a great shot.

One of the biggest attractions at the fair, especially for the adults, is the live music entertainment. The oldest church fair picture that I could find is of the first band to ever play at the fair…in 1995. It was my son, Joe Jr., and a few of his friends who were classmates at Spring-Ford; Al Cassidy, Casey Kirshner, and Sean Warble; they called themselves, “Butch Cassidy and the Outlaws”. Since then, Seven Day Sunday with Dan O’Brien and friends, and the Under Cover Band have become perennial favorites. Other local artists like Michael Kropp and Jim Kats and his band have also graced the stage. Even children of the scheduled bands have appeared while the parents were taking their break; a welcomed change to turning on the CD player.

One of the best things about taking the fair pictures is seeing everyone having fun, especially the little kids. It’s always great to see the big smiles or the effort some kids put into getting a prize.

The fair is also popular with many teens and tweens. It’s a good place for a date or just to hang out with friends.

There is also plenty to keep the parents and grandparents entertained. You’ll see many of them playing games of chance, tossing balls at the dunk tank or just hanging out with friends and family in the beer garden listening to the band. …and many regulars on the “dance floor”.

Another highlight over the years were the fireworks. Unfortunately, too much new development in the area has made it unsafe to set them off anywhere near the church. But they were a big attraction while they lasted.

And speaking of keeping everyone safe, The Royersford Fire Department and Police officers are always on hand to make sure we are.

There are over 600 volunteer positions that need to be filled each year to run all of the games and booths, cook and serve the food, and just make sure that everything works the way it should. Because they are the reason we are able to pull off such an event year after year, an important part of my job is getting pictures of as many of these volunteers as I can. You always have that one guy who has to ham it up… like Bill Highley in this picture.

But the heart and soul of the fair really are the volunteers who make it happen! Especially the fair committee who start many months ahead of the actual fair to plan everything and make sure everything is ready by the time the fair begins.

This is the poster I created for 2020, showing many of our volunteers… just taking a break to pose for a picture or doing what they do to make the fair happen!

Joe Evans was born in Phoenixville and grew up on his grandfather’s and father’s farms outside of Spring City. He married Mary Jo Miles shortly after turning eighteen and purchased his home at 261 Washington Street in Royersford a year later. He and Mary Jo raised three children there, Joe Jr., Jim, and Elizabeth, and still make it their home today. In addition to his side jobs in photography, Joe worked in the food industry his whole life until losing his job recently when his employer lost most of their business due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Dennis McClellan
Dennis McClellan
Sep 11, 2020

I've been away from the Spring-Ford area for the better part of 60 years, but I still remember all of the outdoor 'church festivals' that I went to with my friends. There's something special about a hot dog put into a roll by a stranger that tasted better than those made at home. My earliest recollection of such 'large events' were those hosted for a few days each year by the old St. Joe's parish on New Street in Spring City (that's a long time ago). I would go each year with the money I saved up from my newspaper route and collecting soft drink bottles and removing newspapers from people's basements.

One year (during the mid-'50s), I spent some…

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