John W. Rose, Tennessee State Fair Association chairman, spoke to the group about the history of the fair and its potential move from its longtime home.
Rose said the fair is an important aspect of the state and serves as a unifier for the “three states” of Tennessee.
“Diversity is certainly an important attribute we have in our country, and we ought to be proud of that diversity. But, we also need to celebrate what we have in common and celebrate the things that bring us together as people. In Tennessee, one of the places we can do that is the Tennessee State Fair,” he said.
Rose said leadership has taken several steps to make the fair more attractive, including additional security measures, which he said has led to a drastic decrease in violence at the fair.
“Aside from the occasional shoving matches and stuff, we haven’t had any violence in seven years,” said Rose, who said all guests are checked prior to entering the fair.
Rose also said other factors such as community upgrades around the fairgrounds have made the event safer. However, Rose admitted that a move from the site is almost inevitable.
“The site in Nashville, while a site we can still hold the fair, is not expansive enough to allow us to have a state fair on the scale in places like Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky or Georgia, where they have larger sites and more room to host the activities, competitions and events you customarily think about being a part of the state fair,” said Rose, who said some sites in Nashville are a possibility.
Tennessee State Fair Commission was formed earlier this year to explore the interest of all 95 counties to play host to the state fair, including Wilson. However, Rose said it might not be feasible with the popularity of the Wilson County Fair.
In 2015, the Tennessee State Fair saw about 100,000 guests, while the Wilson and Williamson county fairs boasted about 500,000 and 200,000 guests, respectively.
“Really, the only option would be for the Wilson County Fair to become the state fair. There’s a lot of reasons why that might not be the best thing for Wilson County, and I share that view, frankly,” he said.
The commission plans to submit a proposal to Gov. Bill Haslam by the end of the year with possible relocation in 2019.