Q&A with Jimmy Carter, Fair Inc. president
Editor’s Note: The Times sat down with Jimmy Carter, president of the Lincoln County Fair Association, and Clayton Wilson, vice president, last week, for a Q&A. The Lincoln County Fair, now in its 108th year, will open Saturday.
Q: Why is it that the Lincoln County Fair is considered as one of the best fairs in the state of Tennessee?
A: The main reason is because of the agricultural exhibits – there’s no comparison when you look at other fairs in our state. Folks come from all over to view livestock, 4-H and other agricultural exhibits, handicrafts, art, and our commercial exhibits, and they also enjoy our family-friendly entertainment.
Another reason is the harness racing. We’re the only fair in Tennessee to have state-sanctioned harness races.
We are a true country fair where people who don’t live on farms can learn about agriculture and where hundreds of local children can participate in 4-H and compete on the local and state level.
Q: How many people attend our fair every year?
A: Over 100,000 people came last year, and that was probably a record year for us. We think our great attendance has a lot to do with the value people get when they come to the fair. The price of a ticket represents a very good deal when it comes to entertainment, considering $20 gets a person admission to a big name concert and unlimited amusement rides the first Saturday night, and a $7 admission gets one in to see the harness races, all the exhibits and nightly entertainment each day the rest of the week, except for the last Saturday.
Q: How many people and/or groups does it take to put on the fair, and do these folks receive financial benefit from their participation?
A: There’s over 300 volunteers total involved in putting on the fair, and 120 of those are on the fair board.
This year, we’ll donate about $20,000 to the Boy Scouts, FFA, the Volunteer Fire Department and the Sheriff’s Posse. Of course, we appreciate all these folks, because their help is crucial to putting on the fair.
We’d also like to thank 4-H for all they do, as well as others, including all the exhibitors, Lincoln County Hospital Volunteers, and Fayetteville Public Utilities.
And we appreciate our corporate sponsors – we couldn’t do it without them. Our sponsors are listed in the fair catalog – their sponsorship donations help cover costs of advertising, the catalog, hiring entertainment and many other expenses that are necessary to start up the fair each year. This year’s sponsors are A TECH Sales, American Development Corp., Bagley and Bagley Insurance, Bank of Lincoln County, Belle City Amusements, Carpet Savers, C&S Plastics, Copperweld, Dr. James Deaton and the Center for Physical Medicine, Exchange, Farm Credit Services, Fayetteville Animal Clinic, Fayetteville/Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce, First Commerce Bank, First National Bank, First National Bank Mortgage, Frito-Lay, Gerald’s Foodland, H&R Agri-Power, Howard Bentley Buick-GMC, Infinity O&P, Landers McClarty Toyota, Lincoln Farmers Co-op, Lincoln Paving, Mid-South Distributing, Redstone Federal Credit Union, Richardson Lime, Scivally Grain, Simms Construction, Tractor Supply Co., Tri-Green Equipment, Walker Crop Insurance, Woody Anderson Ford, WYTM-FM and WEKR-AM, and Yearwood Implement.
Q: There is the Lincoln County Fair Association and the Lincoln County Fair, Inc. What is the difference in these two groups?
A: The Lincoln County Fair Association is the stockholders, and the Lincoln County Fair Inc. is the nonprofit group. The fairgrounds, consisting of about 33 acres, are owned privately by stockholders, who do not receive any dividends except for a season pass each year to the fair. Most of the shares of stock were purchased many years ago and have been passed down to family members who are not actively involved in the operation of the fair. The fair’s board of directors is made up mostly of volunteers who donated their time throughout the year, and nearly all of them also have full-time jobs.
Just as a note, the fair is not supported in any way with taxpayer funds from the county or the city.
Q: Of the revenues made from the fair each year, how much are invested in improvements?
A: On average, we put $30,000 back into the fair each year for long-term improvements. In 2008, though, we were fortunate enough to receive a grant from the Tennessee State Department of Agriculture – that grant along with loans the board took out enabled us to put over $250,000 in improvements into the fair that year alone.
Last year we give out over $60,000 in agriculture premiums and then another $50,000 in premiums for other events, like the harness racing, demolition derby, and truck and tractor pull.
Q: Much has been rumored about the possibility of Goodman acquiring the fairgrounds – what has occurred and what is the status of that?
A: We had met with Goodman back in February. They had inquired about the fairgrounds – there weren’t any amounts discussed by either the Fair or Goodman. They did do a core sample, but we have never heard anything from that. If something were to come of it, the stockholders would have to vote on it, and it’d be in the paper.
While the Lincoln County Fair board supports economic growth in Lincoln County, we would also like to continue to support the deep-rooted traditions that make this county a great place to live and ensure that our fair goes on.
Q. What can we look forward to this year at the fair and in the years to come?
A. We’re excited about naming the Agriculture/4-H Exhibit Building the Hale Exhibit Hall for Darrell Hale who passed away in June. Darrell was a great friend to the Lincoln County Fair and a friend and dedicated servant to 4-H. Naming the building in his honor is our way of celebrating his life and honoring his memory.
Something else we’re excited about is this will be the 12th year for the Barbecue Cook-Off, which will be held on Saturday night, the first night of the fair. It’s growing every year, and we know it’ll be a great event again this year.
Tailgating is something new to the fair. We’re proud of our tailgating area and think it will continue to grow in popularity.
Mr. Charley – Charley Therrell – will mark his 40th consecutive year of serving as our harness race announcer. He has been an awesome part of our fair, and we appreciate his serving as our announcer every year.
We’re looking forward to the 108th Lincoln County Fair. It’s a tradition that we treasure, and we are confident that the fair will be around for another 108 years.