This year’s Williamson County Fair will mark the 15th anniversary of the popular event.
After an almost 50-year absence, the fair tradition was resurrected in 2005 by a group of dedicated community leaders and county officials in an effort to highlight the agricultural industry that was once the mainstay of this fast-growing county.
About 200 sponsors and volunteers gathered at the Ag Expo Park Tuesday night to celebrate the milestone.
Fair Board Chairman Rogers Anderson told the group, “We started the fair for our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren to spotlight agriculture. We are so proud of the commitment of the community to the fair and the agricultural involvement in the fair.”
Diane Giddens, Fair Board secretary, said, “This is just a relaxed evening with (county fair) friends and associates, a chance to see people we all love and celebrate the sponsors who took a leap of faith 15 years ago and continue to support the fair.”
Anderson recognized the almost 60 sponsors — many of whom have been with the fair since that first year — for their support, which has allowed the fair to grow and become a catalyst for elevating the quality of fairs across the state.
Numbers, impact grow
More than 226,000 people from every part of Tennessee, every surrounding state, the Midwest and other parts of the country and even a few foreign countries went through the fair gates last year.
Since its inception, the scholarship fund has provided local students with $27,800 in scholarships. In 2018, about $83,000 in premiums was issued to participants in the 7,300 competitive events held at the fair.
One night each year for the past four years, fair visitors brought cans of food to pay the gate fee. Through that venture, a total of 38,718 pounds of food has been given to GraceWorks.
Each year the fair has more than 70 vendors and exhibitors set up around the grounds to feed, entertain and tantalize visitors.
It takes thousands of volunteers to organize and produce the fair and many spend hundreds of hours planning months in advance. There is just one paid employee in the entire organization. In 2018, it took more than 2,200 volunteers to make the event a success.
“The fair has 12,000 followers on social media,” Anderson said. “We had a 38 percent increase on the website last year.”
Anderson added, “For the 15th year we plan to do something a little special and a little different.”
Back to the farm
Although large family farms are disappearing and agriculture is no longer the leading industry in Williamson County, the agrarian life has not disappeared.
“This is an exciting time in agriculture,” said Matt Horseman, director of Williamson County’s University of Tennessee Agriculture Extension program. “Agriculture is shifting. Two 100-acre farms are now 40 5-acre farms. I have a lot of hope for the future of agriculture, and Williamson County can be a bellwether in Tennessee.”
Charles Hatcher, co-owner of Hatcher Dairy Farm and the new state agriculture commissioner, dropped by the celebration. He commended the success of the fair as a way to introduce and maintain agriculture as an important economic and social engine.
“Today we are three generations removed from the agricultural county we once were,” he said. “There’s not a better way to introduce agriculture — its work ethics and its lifestyle — than the fair. Williamson County has the best 4-H program in the state thanks to the work of (former UT Extension director) DeWayne Perry, Matt and their county agents. The Williamson County Fair is a model for other counties.”
By highlighting the small farms Horseman spoke of alongside the dwindling number of large farms that once dotted the county’s landscape and introducing improvements and opportunities in agriculture, the Williamson County Fair keeps the spotlight on agriculture and its importance to the community.
The quality of the venue, the entertainment and competitions, the cleanliness, the safety factor and the volunteers have all come together to make the fun, family-friendly Williamson County Fair recognized nationally.