Wilson County has one of the country’s strongest county fairs and this year it has a partner.
The inaugural Wilson County Fair–Tennessee State Fair starts Thursday and continues through Aug. 21 at the James E. Ward Agricultural Center in Lebanon.
The merger came about because the Tennessee State Fair needed a new home with redevelopment plans at The Fairgrounds Nashville.
The Wilson County Fair typically draws around 500,000 total visitors. The state fair has brought in around 110,000 to 120,000 in recent years to its event in Nashville. Neither fair was held in its traditional form last year because of COVID-19.
Here’s a look at what to expect:
Gov. Bill Lee will help kickoff the fair during an opening ceremony starting at 6 p.m., in the Farm Bureau Exposition Center with seating for 1,200.
A flyover and parade will follow. The parade will include a float to honor directors of the Books From Birth in all the state’s 95 counties as part of the fair’s Honoring Hometown Heroes theme.
Lee will lead the parade in a mule-drawn wagon followed by Commissioner of Agriculture Charles Hatcher in an antique truck and Commissioner of Tourism Mark Ezell on a Tennessee Walking Horse.
The parade will feature representatives from all the 95 counties of Tennessee, floats honoring Hometown Heroes, bands and much more.
At 8 p.m. a groundbreaking ceremony will be held for the future Made In Tennessee building that will be used for first place or best of show winners in around 40 categories from the 2021 county fairs and county events. The new building is expected to be ready for the 2022 Wilson County Fair- Tennessee State Fair.
Reithoffer Shows, which has operated the carnival for the Wilson County Fair since 2018, will return for the combined fair with 61 rides planned.
The breakdown includes 28 kid rides, 17 major rides and what are described as six spectacular rides and 10 super spectacular rides.
The Euro Slide is a 65-foot tall slide with seven lanes that is part of a limited number of fairs this year. Euro Slide tickets are separate from the ride armbands that will be available. Euro Slide tickets will be $5 each or three rides for $10.
Attractions and events
- Wilson County High School Football Kickoff: 2 p.m., Sunday, Aug. 15, at the Entertainment Stage.
- Four Wheelers & Dirt Bikes, 6 p.m., Monday, Aug. 16, Motor Sports Arena.
- Four-Wheeler Rodeo, 6 p.m., Wednesday, Aug. 18, Motor Sports Arena.
- School Spirit Kickoff – Spirit Jam: 6:30 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 19, at the Entertainment Stage.
- Demolition Derby: 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday, Aug. 20-21, at the Motor Sports Arena. A Lawn Mower Demolition Derby is scheduled during intermissions of both events.
All 87 livestock shows are open to competitors from across the state.
Super and Tractor pulls, Four Wheeler Rodeo, a dog show, cat competition, antique car show, robotics, 4-H and Future Farmers of America are among a number of other contests that are open to the entire state.
The Birthing Barn that’s been an internet hit will have 27 to 30 expectant animals that have been bred with a target date to deliver newborns during the fair.
The Birthing Barn is organized by Tim Edwards and Jennifer Apala of Edwards Feeds in Lebanon.
The birthing barn is open to those in attendance and available through livestream. Two years ago, the livestreams had more than 15.5 million hits from all 50 states and 47 other countries.
Horses, hogs, alpacas, sheep, dairy and beef cows and goats are among animals to be at the birthing barn.
Livestreams are available on The Birthing Barn on YouTube, Edwards Feeds Inc. Facebook page and Agricultural Learning Center – Lebanon TN – Wilson Co Facebook page.
Funnel cakes, walking tacos, corn on the cob and the assortment of unique deep-fried fried offerings all return. There are even food contests. Those include:
- The Cornbread Challenge, Saturday, Aug. 14 (entries 11 a.m., judging at noon);
- The Tennessee Apple Pie Contest at 1 p.m., Sunday, Aug. 15.
The Frontmen of Country will perform on the Entertainment Stage, Monday, Aug. 16. Janelle Arthur will open at 7 p.m., followed by The Frontmen of Country.
Jeannie Seely will perform on the Opry Stage at 6:45 p.m., Wednesday, Aug. 18.
The fair will have multiple entertainment stages that will include live Bluegrass and country music, clogging and square dancing competitions, pageants, and more.
Ventriloquist David Turner and Doodles the Clown will also perform daily. Two hypnotists, Richard Barker and Corrie J, are scheduled.
The Year of Beef is the agricultural commodity and will include a beef education display in the expo center.
Burger Republic will sponsor the Big Beef Showdown at 10 a.m., Saturday, Aug. 14, that will include cookoff competition in a steak and hamburger division. Awards are approximately at 3:30 p.m.
The Cowboy Ninja Warrior Lance Pekus will speak and show skills of power showcasing the “Beef: It’s What’s for Dinner Ninja Course.” A Ninja Warrior course for competition will take place for ages 13 and older to compete for prize money leading up to the finals on Aug. 21. The course created by Adventure Fitness will be open to fairgoers.
Beef cattle shows are scheduled daily.
Honoring Hometown Heroes
This year’s theme will begin with opening ceremonies on Thursday, Aug. 12, with a parade to recognize hometown heroes. Different hometown heroes from across the state will be recognized each night on the Entertainment Stage. The fair will provide details on who will be honored on its Facebook and Instagram accounts.
FFA Ham Breakfast
The Annual Tennessee Future Farmers of America Ham Breakfast is a state fair tradition that moves to Wilson County at 8 a.m., Monday, Aug. 16.
The breakfast is held by the Tennessee FFA Foundation and regularly maxed out at about 500 people in Nashville. Tables of eight are sold to different level sponsors for the Ham Breakfast.
Growth is expected with Wilson County’s Farm Bureau Expo Center’s higher capacity, though space will be respected because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Tennessee FFA Foundation Executive Director Kelsey Rose said..
Funds raised go back to the membership, which is comprised of 228 chapters at schools across Tennessee.
Tables for the Ham Breakfast are $300 per table. A Co-Host sponsorship is $1,000 per table and a Title sponsor is $2,000. For information on the Ham Breakfast email [email protected] or visit www.tnffa.org.
Fiddlers Grove Historical Village
The village within the James E. Ward Agricultural Center is rebuilt after damage from the March 2020 tornado. The storytellers will tell untold stories about Tennessee’s history. Quilting, blacksmithing, woodcarving, broom making, basket making are among numerous demonstrations.
COVID-19 vaccines offered
COVID-19 vaccines will be offered in a partnership with the Vanderbilt Wilson County Hospital.
Shots will be available at the first aid station in the Farm Bureau Expo Center and distributed on a first-come, first-serve basis.
The hospital can administer at least 200 doses of the single dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. If all are administered, the hospital also has access to the two-dose Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.
- Adults – $12.
- Ages 6-12 – $6.
- Ages 5-under – free.
- $45 and good for all 10 days of the fair.
Thursday, Aug. 12, opening day
- Half-price (adults – $6 and ages 6-12 – $3). Rides will be $1 per ride with a $10 sheet of ride tickets.
Single-day gate admission and ride armband for $25 if purchased online by Aug. 11. Does not include the Euro Slide.
Tickets, activity, competition and entertainment information are available www.wilsoncountyfair.net. Season and Mega tickets are also available at local banks and the fair office.
Free parking is available at the Ward Center with preferred parking available for $5. Free satellite parking is also at Cumberland University football field and Baird Park at 415 Harding Drive in Lebanon, First Baptist Church Lebanon (227 E. Main Street) and the Wilson County Courthouse (228 E. Main Street). Shuttle buses will run 4-11 p.m. daily Monday-Friday, 10 a.m.-11 p.m., Saturdays and 1-11 p.m., Sunday.
Reach Andy Humbles at [email protected] or 615-726-5939 and on Twitter @ AndyHumbles.