The 1918 Version of Arcadia Daze

The article first appeared in
It was revised for use in the Remember When insert to the Manistee News Advocate from July 2019.

When people hear “Arcadia Days,” they think of the annual three-day Arcadia Daze festival with music, food, beer, arts & crafts, an auto muster, a parade, and more. Arcadia Daze is a community-wide entertainment event that also serves as a homecoming and fundraiser for several groups in town.

Arcadia Days in 1918 was very different from today’s Arcadia Daze. Back then Arcadia Days was an educational event held on a Thursday and Friday in April primarily at the Arcadia High School. An article in the Manistee News Advocate dated April 6, 1918 described the event as a “farmers’ convention” with local speakers and experts from Manistee and Michigan Agricultural College (M.A.C), now known as Michigan State University.


Arcadia Days 1918 Program Cover

Arcadia Days included lectures on agriculture, citizenship, and self-improvement. Music by the school band and the glee club, readings, and flag drills provided breaks between lectures. Cash prizes were given for the best examples of schoolwork, farm produce, and food. Except for the cash prizes, which were small by today’s standards, the program was free to the community as it was part of the M.A.C. extension service offered many times throughout the state.

The topics and awards give us a glimpse into the issues and attitudes in America during WWI, when rationing was necessary and patriotism was at a peak. Home economics subjects taught nearby at the Methodist Church included “War Bread” and “Meat Substitutes.” A student could win 50 cents for the best penmanship or the best composition on “Doing Our Bit.” A dollar was the prize for the “Best Prepared Substitute for Mixed Wheat Flour.”

Program Agenda

Program Cover
for Arcadia Days 1918

This is a four-page document identifying the topics, schedule, and speakers involved in the event.
-- Program courtesy of the Arcadia Area Historical Museum


Arcadia Days 1918 Program Page 1 Agenda

Program Page 2: Day 1
Note the mix of lectures with musical interludes and readings.

What we know about the speakers:  E. M. Gerred was the county school commissioner. Henry Mauntler was on the Arcadia school board. Frank Sandhammer was the county agricultural agent. G. H. Coons of Arcadia was a plant disease expert. The rest were probably local except for Dr. A. F. Hess of Manistee.

Arcadia Days 1918 Program Page 2 Agenda

Not listed in the agenda was the "food conversation exposition" given at the Methodist church by Miss Cora Evans of M.A.C. Extension. As described in the Manistee News Advocate from April 6, 1918, "The school program consists of the actual mixing and cooking of war foods before the audience while the demonstrator explains every process."

Program Page 3: Day 2
The program continued with much the same format as day 1. That included more presentations and lectures on agriculture, self improvement, and Red Cross work along with a flag drill. On Friday evening, cash prizes were presented for a variety of academic and 4H-style categories.

 Prizes Awarded


Arcadia Days 1918 Program Page 3 Prizes


Program Page 4: Awards
After two days of lectures and presentations, cash prizes were awarded in three divisions: School Contests, Farm, and Home. Most prizes were less than $1. The top prize was $2.50 for the student with the best rural school exhibit. Note the topics of interest in 1918 when WWI was still raging: a composition on "Doing Our Bit," "War Bread," and finding substitutes for wheat flour and meat.

After the awards were given, entries in the Home Division were sold to the highest bidder.