Book itThe presentation and dedication of “The Wilson County Fair: Tennessee’s Big County Fair” will be held at 2:30 p.m. Sunday at the Fiddlers Grove picnic pavilion. A limited number of full-color books will be available at a special discount price of $23.
By KEN BECKSpecial to The Wilson Post
Besides experiencing this year’s county fair, now you can stroll through its past as you read The Wilson County Fair: Tennessee’s Big County Fair.
The new 256-page book was a joint venture by Mt. Juliet’s Brenda Moss and Lebanon’s James Jordan and features more than 50 historic photographs and images of artifacts such as old catalog covers and tickets.
Moss covered the fair history, while Jordan explored the buildings of Fiddler’s Grove and Wilson County century farms.“Each year from the past 30 years has its own chapter,” Moss said. “Probably the most notable event took place in 1984 when we won the state’s most improved fair award. That was the catalyst for everything that happened afterward.”
Most noteworthy to Moss was the Himalaya ride accident in 1985 when several people were injured. “That could have been a big negative, but they picked right back up again and kept on going. That was an important year as it forced the fair board to seek a better carnival,” she said.
While their have been other controversies, such as the well remembered diving mules, a highlight for Moss came in 1988, when Michael Dukakis visited the fair.
Going to the fair?
The Wilson County Fair opens at 5 p.m. today and continues through Aug. 29 at the James E. Ward Agricultural Center at 945 Baddour Parkway.
Gate admission: ages 13 and older, $7; ages 6-12, $5, ages 5 and younger, free. Season ticket: $30. Carnival ride one price: Sunday-Thursday nights, $18; Friday-Saturday nights, $20. Opening day: buy one $20 all-day ride pass and get second pass for $10. Rides open at 5 p.m. Monday-Friday; at noon on Saturday and at 1 p.m. Sunday.
Amusements of America brings 75 rides including the Extreme, a high velocity spin ride, and the Avalanche roller coaster that takes four riders to a car through two dips and two spirals. For more info, call 443-2626 or go online to www.wilsoncountyfair.net.“He was the Democratic presidential nominee. That was a learning experience with the way the men in black, the Secret Service, came in and took over operations and posted snipers. That was very interesting,” Moss said.
For Jordan it was more than fair history but Wilson County history, as he dug into the past about the people and places that reflected the county of yesteryear and helped shape what was to come. Some of that is reflected in the 55 or so structures that stand in Fiddler’s Grove.
“Fiddler’s Grove is a historic village that depicts the progress in the life of Wilson County from its earliest days up until the present. It’s a place to step back and see how life was in simpler times,” Jordan said.
“A lot of people who come to the fair enjoy the fair and seeing the exhibits and riding the rides, but a lot of folks say Fiddler’s Grove is a special place. Some people like to go up there and set back and listen to the music and watch the craftsmen and relax and learn and have a good time,” said Jordan, who manages three divisions of accounting for LifeWay in Nashville.
Writer-historian Jordan said that he and Moss researched at the Jordan House, which serves as the Wilson County Fair Museum, while Richard Hosier did a lot of digging through newspaper microfilms at Cumberland University to assist them in their work.
Fiddler’s Grove, which opened in 1990 and is still growing, serves as the home of the century farm museum of Wilson County. The county has more century farms than any other county in Tennessee. The new book includes the story and a photo of each farm.
Moss reports that the first known Wilson County Fair occurred in 1853, but not much is known about the fairs until 1919 when it took place at the old courthouse on the Square.“There had not been a fair for decades,” Moss said. “Citizens held a two-day fair to see if there was enough interest to form a fair association, and in 1920 a group of citizens formed an association where they sold stock to raise money. Known as the Stockholder Fair, they held the next fair on Coles Ferry Pike.
“The early era of the fair focused on horse racing. A fair was held every year after 1920, even through WWI and WWII. A.W. McCartney was a very prominent figure in the fair from the 1920s into the 1960s. They called him ‘Mr. Wilson County Fair.’ His philosophy was that he would bring to Wilson County the free acts, thus he would pore over Billboard magazine and contact free acts. The Stockholders Fair went defunct after 1969, and from 1970 to 1972 there was no county fair,” Moss said.
In 1973, the Lebanon Jaycees began sponsorship of the fair and ran it through 1978. The old fairground property on Coles Ferry was sold at auction in 1974, and that left no place for the fair to be held, so the county court purchased property on Baddour Parkway where the James E. Ward Agricultural Center now stands. The Jaycees moved the fair to that location in 1975, but decided to discontinue after 1978.
“In 1979 a group of citizens formed a non-profit charter and called it Wilson County Promotions with the purpose to put on the Wilson County Fair and use the money generated to improve the James E. Ward Agricultural Center,” Moss said.
And the rest is now in the fair history book.
Writer Ken Beck may be contacted at email@example.com