Our organization began with a community vision—the need for a local hospital in Abington. In 1912, there was a call to raise funds to establish the hospital, and women in the surrounding communities gathered together to answer that call. Three key founding members were instrumental in bringing this vision to life: Mrs. Charles Kruger, the first president of the Women’s Board, who worked diligently to create community support in all the surrounding neighborhoods of the hospital; Natalie Fox Elkins, the wife of Abington Memorial Hospital’s first president, George Elkins, Jr., who served as “the eyes and ears” for identifying hospital needs and was an honorary second Vice President of the Women’s Board throughout her lifetime; and Louise Elkins Sinkler, daughter of Abington Memorial Hospital founder George Elkins, Sr., who dedicated more than 60 years of service to the Women’s Board. Through their skillful organization of early fundraising efforts and securing community donations, Abington Memorial Hospital opened in May of 1914 with all patient amenities in place.
1910s: Fair Origins
The June Fete Fair’s humble beginnings took the form of street fairs, lawn fetes, and holiday bazaars held to raise funds for the hospital opening. In 1913, the Women’s Auxiliary voted to use their past successes as a basis for creating a major annual fundraising event. The Elkins family generously offered their estate as a location for a June event.
The 1913, Garden Party Fair must have been a sight to behold: the sweeping landscape of the Elkins Estate, Latham Park, complete with beautiful English gardens, manicured lawns and festive booths; both coaches and “new-fangled” cars streaming through the gate and up the long drive as patrons arrived; ladies in lawn dresses with fancy umbrellas, men in bowler hats, and children brimming with excitement; booths offering fresh produce, flower marts, and games offered; the terrace of the mansion set for refreshments and afternoon tea.
The annual Garden Party Fair continued with new attractions added each year. In 1918, Mrs. George Horace Lorimer volunteered to be chairman. She introduced the idea of an annual theme and was responsible for the name “the June Fete.” She served as chairman for 16 years and dedicated herself to elevating the June Fete into a lavish East Coast event, attracting patronage from around the country.
1920s: June Fete Dress and More
In 1921, a fashion show was added and soon became the premier attraction of the fair. The June Fete Dress, featuring New York designers and young debutante models, became a major fundraising event for decades. Each year, a new design was released and sold at the fair, becoming a staple fund-raising item for decades. The tradition ended in the 1960s when production costs became prohibitive. In 1922, the Pony Show was added, followed by the Horse Show in 1923; both became a permanent fixture of the fair.
1930s: From Estate to Estate
During the 1930s, the location of the fair moved among many grand local estates including “Lindenhurst,” the John Wanamaker Estate; “Ashbourne Hall,” the William Elkins Estate; and “Crosswicks,” the Clement Newbold Estate. The annual June Fete had become so well known that Pathé News, a noted producer of newsreels and documentaries from 1910 to 1970, filmed the event; the “runners” were distributed to movie theaters around the country. The Silver Jubilee, the event’s 25th anniversary, was celebrated in 1938.
1940s: “Imaginary Fairs”
By the 1940s, the Depression and the advent of World War II took their toll on volunteer support for the fair. Using great ingenuity, the women held “Imaginary Fairs” in 1943 and 1944, during which donations were sought without the need for attendance. An astounding $38,000 was realized as the community rallied around this cause. As the war ended, the fair returned to its former stature, once again with the help of the Elkins family, who offered their “Justa Farms” property in Huntingdon Valley as a new site. It remained there for the next ten years. Sporting its own racetrack, a large lake, and acreage sufficient to accommodate horse shows, dog shows, and car shows, this proved to be an ideal new location for introducing many novel activities never before seen at the fair, such as fishing contests and a mini go-cart track for kids.
1950s: Donation of “June Fete Farm”
With the formation of auxiliary units in 1950, a host of community volunteers were added, and with their support came fresh ideas and much enthusiasm. The auxiliaries assumed responsibility for chairing many of the booths. The June Fete Dress committee expanded its line to include men’s and children’s clothing. An annual catalog was published and sold, highlighting both the hospital and the Women’s Board and its Auxiliaries.
In 1955, an impressive parcel of land was generously donated by the Pitcairn family to serve as a permanent location for the June Fete Fair and Horse & Pony Show. Dubbed the “June Fete Farm,” it became the permanent home of the fair.
For the next decade, the auxiliaries hosted “A Day in Willow Grove Park” for the surrounding schools, featuring guest appearances by celebrities such as Dick Clark, Bert Parks, Sally Starr, and Captain Noah.
1960s and Beyond
Community involvement and support for the fair hit an all-time high in the early 1960s. The Golden Anniversary of the June Fete Fair was celebrated in 1963.
As one of the earliest continuously-running fairs in Montgomery County, the June Fete Fair annually draws more than 25,000 community members throughout the weekend. We are proud of the rich history this fair has brought to our community. The dedication of all the thousands of volunteers working towards a common goal for more than 100 years is unmatched!
Today, our organization continues to build on the strong vision our founders created and is dedicated to continuing volunteer service and fundraising for Abington – Jefferson Health. The Abington Health Foundation Women’s Board extends its gratitude to all the women, their family members, and the community volunteers who have joined us in our mission. The Women’s Board and its Auxiliaries is proud of its past, delighted with its present, and enthusiastically looks toward the future.