Tennessee Fairs Showcase Midway Magic

April 6, 2010

By Jessica Mozo

Few things are quite as nostalgic as a county fair, where the smell of funnel cakes and livestock mingle in the air, and excited screams of ride-goers echo from the midway.

Tennessee State Fair

In Tennessee, fair-going has been a well-loved tradition for more than a century, with more than 3 million people attending 62 fairs across the state each year. At least six of those fairs have been entertaining crowds for more than 100 years.

“It’s just tradition,” says Emily Pitcock, executive director of the Tennessee Association of Fairs. “People love fairs because they take us back to our roots. Agriculture plays a huge role in that because it teaches children where the food they eat and the milk they drink comes from. Fairs get back to the basics of life when people sewed their own clothes and grew their own food.”

They also provide plenty of inexpensive fun.

“My very first job was working as a ticket-taker at a fair gate, and I saw so many people come through who couldn’t afford a vacation,” Pitcock recalls. “They saved up money to bring their families to the fair because that was their thing. There’s so much for everybody – both young and old – to see.”

That includes cattle barns, sheep shows, livestock contests and farrowing displays that aren’t as common as they were a century ago.

“Agriculture is a great educational benefit because many kids these days have never even been to a farm,” Pitcock says.

There are plenty of ways for young people to busy themselves at a fair, from 4-H and FFA opportunities to volunteer work such as weed-eating and painting.

“All county fairs exist for the benefit of their community and people,” Pitcock says. “Going to the fair – it just gets in your blood.”

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  1. Janelle Jones Poore says:

    growing up at our house, the appalachian fair in gray, tennessee was an annual event! my three sisters showed guernseys and I watched. I was too timid to actually show the cattle, but I loved going and being around the barns and the wonderful friends we made with the other families. I even got to hand out ribbons to the winners occasionally, before they started letting the dairy princesses hand them out. we helped clean up and even sang and played on top of the hay bales when we were younger. we entered different projects in the 4H crafts and other areas, and won some ribbons there too. the barnyard nursery and wildlife exhibits were favorite places to go to over and over. lots of good family memories happened at the fair!