Anticipation grew in the spring of 1882, stoked by advertisements and posters heralding the big
event. Children couldn’t believe their eyes when the circus train finally steamed into the Fairport
station with an incredible array of creatures, including lions, tigers, zebras, camels, kangaroos and elephants. Along with the spectacle of such a menagerie, an endless array of circus performers stepped off the train, featuring Mille Manard, the thrilling trapeze performer; Lillie Cordello, queen of aerial death-defying feats; and Sam McFlynn, champion of the high stilts. They were joined by the largest collection of clowns ever seen in Fairport. What a sight it must have been, as a parade formed on North Main Street and proceeded to DeLand Park. I wish Frank Clench, Fairport’s noteworthy photographer, had left his studio that day and brought his camera outdoors to document the event.
While it is hard to say how often the circus came to DeLand Park, we know that the last visit
occurred on Sept. 11, 1907, when the Walter Main Circus performed two shows, along with the
customary street parade. A few days after the circus left town, the DeLand family sold the property to Ed Cary, a local hotelier. Included in the purchase price of $10,000 was the old homestead of Daniel and Minerva DeLand, and a total of 14 acres of land, much of which was DeLand Park.
Although Cary had plans to develop DeLand Park into 75 building lots, community leaders urged him to sell it to the village. He consented to do so, for the price of $6,000. The decision
to purchase the land required a vote of the village taxpayers, to take place on Sept. 24, 1908.
DeLand Park was full of activity in the months leading up to the vote. Hundreds attended a
church picnic, while keeping a watchful eye for the occasional foul ball, as Fairport baseball teams took on all challengers. An epic celebration, Old Home Week, filled the park in August with an estimated 40,000 visitors over seven days. More than ever, the community seemed to embrace the idea of a publicly owned park.
Despite a marketing campaign called “Do it for Fairport,” in the end, the vote to purchase the
park failed. By August of 1909, Ed Cary sold the land to a developer. Meat market owner Levi Borden built the first home, and took occupancy in February of 1910.
Today, the street names DeLand Park A and DeLand Park B are a tangible reminder that, for
30 years or so, when the circus came to town, DeLand Park was the place to be.