As joint managers of the Saginaw County Fair, Clarence Harnden and Moxie Mulrooney brought the Fair to new levels at the time with their improvements.
Clarence Harnden exhibited in the first 1914 Saginaw Fair and subsequent ones. He was elected Manager-Executive Secretary of the Saginaw Fair in 1940 and held the position until 1973. The fair needed improved roadways, expanded livestock and exhibition buildings and Clarence could visualize these ideas and make them happen. He raised the funds through innovative ideas in the off-season for income and made improvements.
Moxie Mulrooney had two years of college and taught in one-room schools in Hemlock and Bridgeport. After getting married, she raised an adopted daughter along with her own and became a foster mother for many disadvantaged children. She served for 30 years as a 4-H Club leader beginning in 1930. In 1944, Clarence and Moxie co-authored the current 4-H Club Association’s Articles of Incorporation, By-Laws and Constitution and had the 4-H Memorial Building built on the fairgrounds.
In 1945, Moxie was hired as secretary to Harnden who was the Fair manager. In 1946 Moxie organized the rural Youth Department for rural children who weren’t able to belong to a 4-H Club. Because of her leadership qualities, Moxie became Assistant Manager, a new position in 1950. No woman had ever held a management position at a county fair or served on an all-male fair board.
Moxie directed the 4-H, Future Farmers of America, the Women’s, Rural Youth, Commercial Departments, all food vendors, hired and fired all employees, supervised all clerks, department helpers and the judges. She and Clarence jointly managed the fair and grounds throughout the year.
Clarence directed all livestock departments, the grandstand and midway. They held the free Children’s Day every Monday during Fair week so all children would be able to attend the fair. Moxie wanted children who otherwise could not attend to be able to come. In 1957 she initiated and ran the Saginaw Fair Premium Book Cover contest until 1975 for all area school children to promote art in the schools.
Clarence kept the Fair going during challenging times in World War II and was the County Chairman of the Victory Garden Program. He worked with the Sam Levy Theatrical Co. of Chicago to bring “BIG” names to the grandstand. These outstanding attractions were normally brought to larger cities. Attendance increased yearly to almost 500,000 by 1968. Their leadership helped the Saginaw Fair to gain the reputation of the “Largest County Fair in America, East of the Rockies.”
Moxie served as 4-H Council president, was on State Grange Youth Clubs committees, and was the president, vice president and executive secretary of the Michigan State Fair Association—the second woman ever to be elected as president. She was president of Northern Michigan Fairs & Racing Association, was a board member of International Association of Fairs.
Clarence was president of the International Association of Fairs and of the Michigan State Fair Association. He received numerous awards and accolades for his outstanding contributions to the fair associations. The Saginaw Fair was awarded the Reid Memorial Trophy in 1965 as “Michigan’s Outstanding Fair.”
The Clarence H. Harnden memorial plaque was established after his death in 1973 and awarded two plaques—one for commercial and one for competitive exhibits—for all fairs from 1973 through 2001. Both Clarence Harden and Moxie Mulrooney were recognized nationally and internationally for their outstanding leadership and expertise.
Copyright © 2018 Saginaw County Hall of Fame - All Rights Reserved.