The Kermis: think of it as cosplaying the Dutch

So yesterday we started to describe the excitement around the first Kermis to be held in America, which was put on in Schenectady in 1948 as part of its sesquicentennial anniversary noting its chartering as a city. The rest of the article from the Altamont Enterprise is well worth perusing, especially if you wonder about a time when an entire city could be expected to cosplay (at least down to their feet) and men were encouraged to smoke pipes for the week. Fair warning: do not play a drinking game for every time some form of the word “gay” appears in this article.

The Kermis will be held both in and outdoors, the new state armory in Schenectady and a city park directly opposite having been engaged for the event. In the park, there will be a merry-go-round, ferris wheel and a number of other carnival attractions, including the Dutch food booths. In the armory there will be 80 or more exhibit booths and a stage for a nightly show by strictly Dutch performers. Highlighting the exhibits will be a collection of 12 paintings by the old Dutch masters, valued at $200,000 and a Dutch village of 11 typical Dutch buildings and stores, being sent to Schenectady from Holland especially for this Kermis.

Another unique and outstanding attraction of the Kermis will be a Dutch barrel organ, also being sent from the Netherlands for this celebration. This instrument, which somewhat resembles a circus wagon with its ornamental bright red and gold decorations, is reputed to “make more noise than two or three brass bands.” It is moved about by horses and played by means of perforated paper rolls. Operated by persons in Dutch costumes this organ will be moved about neighboring cities a few days before the opening of the Kermis for advertising purposes. There is but one other barrel organ in the country, and this rests among the exhibits of the Dutch museum at Holland, Mich., a gift from the Netherlands in reciprocation for what that city has done in promoting the annual tulip festival.

The entire city will assume a gay Dutch attire for Kermis week. On each street pole will be large Dutch windmills with blades which will turn with the breeze. American and Dutch flags will be in evidence everywhere, the business stores will be gaily decorated and all residents of the city have been asked to appear in Dutch costumes during the three days of the Kermis, except possibly for wooden shoes which it was agreed would be too difficult a job for persons unaccustomed to them. All men, however, have been asked to smoke the long stem church warden clay pipes that week.

Authentic Dutch costumes, sent from Holland, have been on display in Schenectady, so people can make their own attire. Interest aroused in their exhibit indicates the spirit with which the residents are responding to the invitation to dress like the Dutch for the Kermis.

To carry out traditions of this country which generally prevail at all gay festivals, two additions to the Dutch idea of the Kermis are being added to Schenectady’s celebration. There will be a King and Queen of the Kermis, elected by popular vote of the city’s residents, and a fireworks display the last two nights, originating from a floating barge in the Mohawk river, which flows past the Kermis grounds.

According to Clyde D. Wagoner, chairman of the Kermis committee, this three-day celebration promises to be one of the gayest and most unique ever held in Schenectady and an event which should attract 25,000 or more to Schenectady each night for “no one in these parts has ever seen a Kermis before.”

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