How to make a county fair booth
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How to Make the Background
for a County Fair Booth

This design is for the back wall of a County Fair booth. It uses plastic pipe from any plumbing or home supply store to make a frame, then it is hung with three panels of fabric. We are not sure where this design originated, but the first one we saw was made by Susan and Clem Swisher. It costs less than $20 for the frame, but the fabric to hang on it can vary a lot.

The footprint of the background is U-shaped (a flat-backed U) and sits at the back of your booth.

1. The frame

The frame is made of white PVC water pipe. It is strong and cheap, and easy to make with just pipe, fittings, a hacksaw and glue. The Swishers used 3/4" pipe. Their frame is very light and durable. We used 1" PVC pipe for more rigidity. If we did it again we would use larger diameter pipe, probably 1 1/4" or even 1 1/2". The cost and storage space would be increased, but this one requires some bracing to stiffen it for hanging big things like the County map that we have people stick pins in.

The list of materials:

    4 PVC pipes 78" long
    4 PVC pipes 30" long
    2 PVC pipes either 41" long (for an 8� wide booth) or 64" long (for a 10 foot booth)
    4 PVC pipes 2" long
    4 45 degree elbow fittings
    4 90 degree elbow fittings
    4 Tee fittings
    4 cloth panels 80" long x 58" wide (after hemming--see below)

The PVC comes in ten foot lengths, so you will need five of them.

The two side panels are made up of the 30" horizontal pipes at bottom and top, with a 90 degree elbow attached at the outside end and a 45 degree elbow and tee connector attached at the inside end. The 2" pipes connect the 45 degree elbow and the tee, and disappear inside as the two fittings come together. The 78 inch pipes are inserted in the 90 degree elbow and the tee fitting, and form the uprights. At the other end of the tee you insert the 41" or 64" pipes to make the connection between the two end panels. The angle of the side panels makes the structure reasonably stable.

Cut the pipes to length with a hacksaw and clean up the ends. Assemble the whole structure to make sure it is right, then disassemble and glue only the three fittings on each side panel piece. (See photo) When the glue is thoroughly dry, reassemble again to make sure you glued everything straight. The unit would probably work fine with no glue at all, but it is more convenient to have the small fittings glued on. For storage the unit breaks down into a small bundle of pipes. (Photo below)

The cloth panels in the Swisher design wrap over the top horizontal pipes and are fastened with hook-and-loop. In our design the seamstress turned over the top and sewed it so there is a 4 and one half inch hem that you run the top horizontal pipes through before putting them on the frame. That hem would accommodate pvc pipe of larger diameters, up to 2 inchs inside diameter. There is also a 1 and one half inch hem on the bottom of the panel. The cloth is 58 inches wide, so it does not have to be hemmed on the sides, and each panel is made from one 86 inch piece of cloth (with hems totaling 6 inches it ends up 80 inches long). Each panel weighs 38 oz. so the fabric is about 16 oz per yard. The fabric totaled almost ten yards. The fabric is 25 per cent wider than the length of the horizontal pipe, so it falls into pleats, and the extra also hides all view of the pipes at the ends. We have the fabric cut in four equal panels, using one on each side and two for the center. The split does not show in the center. We used heavy dark blue fabric, but you could use dark blue sheets, which are a lot cheaper. The drape hides the pipe entirely, so the effect is just a dark fabric wall. You can mount signs, photos, maps or whatever on the cloth. We drape our tables with dark blue sheets as well.

Here is a diagram of the top and bottom pieces.

And here is a photo of the 3/4" version broken down for storage:

Below is the frame set up, before the drape is put on.

Photos by Susan Trice, who has the 3/4" version made by the Swishers.

Text by Randy Swart 703-521-2080 who has the 1" version and wishes it were 1.5" instead. We hang a very large map on ours and ask people to put a pin where their house is. We have to brace the map from the rear to hold up under pin insertions.

Ann Rudd is familiar with making the fabric panels.


This page was last revised on: September 21, 2004.
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