Masonic fair open to community

NEW HAVEN — Just one week after Addison County Fair & Field Days wraps up, the New Haven fairgrounds will again be covered with rides, games, food and more, as the first annual Grand Master’s Fair is set to take place on Sunday, Aug. 21. The event will be free to the public.
This fair is being organized by the Freemasons of Vermont, as well as other Masonic fraternities including the Order of the Eastern Star, Scottish Rite, York Rite, the Shriners, DeMolay Boys, Rainbow Girls and the Sojourners.
The fair will run from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and feature many activities for all ages, including a crafts show, rock climbing, carnival rides and games, a bouncy room, a car show, dunk tanks, pony rides, live country music, a horseshoe tournament, face painting and a Shriner parade. Organizers said there will also be a large concession area, with standard carnival fare as well as barbeque and Italian sausage.
The fair is being staged to increase public familiarity with Masonic organizations, said Freemason public relations director Erik Johnson.
“The main purpose for the whole entire fair is to bring awareness of the Masonic family to the community,” said Johnson, 27, a Freemason for six years.
The fair is being organized in the model of the Massachusetts Grand Master’s Fair, which has been an annual event for more than 25 years. It has become a popular tradition that the Vermont Grand Lodge hopes to replicate.
“One year, they tried canceling (the fair),” said Johnson of the Massachusetts Freemasons, “and they got outcry from the community trying to get them to do it again.”
The Freemasons are one of the oldest fraternal organizations in the world, going all the way back to the 16th century. They are a worldwide organization with a membership estimated at 6 million, with nearly 2 million members in the United States alone.
The Freemasons, which are organized into “Grand Lodges” with separate jurisdictions, have several missions as an organization. Within the local and wider community, they raise money for selected charities and organizations such as humane societies, hospitals and community food shelves.
Within the organization, the focus is on personal betterment and building close bonds with fellow Masons. Additionally, members are trained to be community leaders, which, according to Johnson, is the reason many high-profile individuals are also Masons.
“People always ask, ‘Why are most leaders Masons? Are you guys trying to take over the world?’” said Johnson, who denies the grandiose claim. “The fact is that a lot of leaders are Masons because they … were taught how to lead. That’s the only connection.”
Fourteen former U.S. presidents have been Masons, including George Washington, James Monroe, Andrew Jackson, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson.
Other high-profile Masons include astronaut Buzz Aldrin, baseball player Ty Cobb, boxer Jack Dempsey, politician Bob Dole, actor Richard Dreyfuss, musician Duke Ellington, football player John Elway, founding father Benjamin Franklin, actor Clark Gable, former FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, Civil Rights leader Jesse Jackson, author and poet Rudyard Kipling, pilot Charles Lindbergh, country singer Brad Paisley, American revolutionary Paul Revere, actor Roy Rogers, composer John Philip Sousa, author Mark Twain and actor John Wayne.
Former Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas became a Mason in Union Lodge No. 2 in Middlebury in 1973, and has been involved with Masonic events throughout his career.
Though the Freemasons are proud of their organization and its members, Johnson stresses that the goal of the Grand Master’s Fair is not to increase their ranks, but simply to familiarize the community with their mission as an organization.
“There will be information booths if people want to learn more about the fraternities, but the main point of (the fair) is not to push people to join,” said Johnson. “The main point is just to bring awareness to the community of who we are what we’re here to do.”
Reporter Ian Trombulak is at [email protected].

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