This article is the second in a series devoted to the history of clubs and organizations in Ripon that through their visions, efforts and actions helped shape and impact the community’s culture to this day.
Non-profit groups often were referred to as “clubs” or “organizations,” each with a charter or purpose.
Club visions and missions were written as “charters,” defining what they stood for and set in motion to accomplish goals. Club goals evolved as a community’s way to deliver and make progress, over time.
There were 41 registered clubs listed by the Ripon Chamber of Commerce between 1865-1965.
Ripon Commercial Club
In this week’s article, the historical society takes a look at the Ripon Commercial Club.
The Commercial Club was founded in 1909. Its members focused on boosting population, building local trade, railroad transportation, manufacturing, education, publicity, civic improvements, employment, roads and highways and legislation.
A Commercial Club success story
An example of the club’s contributions, reflecting the above listed charter, was to create and sponsor Ripon outdoor street fairs during late summer and fall months. Ripon fairs were a time when communities would come together to take time off from hard work, provide group activities and recognition for achievements, and look forward to the future.
In the early 1900s, Ripon was primarily an agriculture and farming community that also supported commercial businesses. In 1918-1919, the annual Ripon Street Fair was a glowing success.
Following a similar format to prior years, downtown businesses were given the challenge of devising special storefront window displays of agricultural products and manufactured goods in hope of winning “premiums (or prizes) for the first-, second- and third-best exhibits.”
Winning displays were awarded in cash or merchandise from the Ripon Commercial Club. Fifty-six businesses entered to participate in the window exhibits competition.
Street Fair attendees and business workers alike were entertained from morning until night. Window exhibits were overflowing with their Ripon farm produce themes, including colorful vegetables, baked goods, flowers, handmade apparel and themed locally manufactured merchandise.
An amusement company brought street entertainers, rides and free acrobatic acts for viewing. Music also was provided along with band concerts.
A parade including floral floats was touted to be the biggest and best-ever in Ripon’s history. The evening was capped off by a dance held at the former armory building that was located in the current Déjà vu consignment store.
The Ripon Historical Society is seeking any photos of Ripon Commercial Club members, their events or street fairs.
Individuals who have any of those materials can stop by the historical society and it would be happy to scan and save them to its professional archives.
Fueling business growth today
Today’s historic downtown Ripon events are created and ran by Ripon Main Street, Inc, located in the Ripon Chamber of Commerce building.
Ripon Main Street was established in 1988 to support the interests of downtown business and property owners. It promotes events that are meaningful to approximately 75 property owners and 125 businesses, as well as their customers
The Ripon Historical Society is the oldest continually operating historical society in Wisconsin. It is open Fridays and Saturdays 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
For more information follow us at Facebook/riponhistory or www.riponhistory.org.