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Fairs in Wilson County have a long history. The first, called the Third Division Fair, was held here in 1853. Between 1854 and 1885, the county fair was held on Coles Ferry Pike, where the Jimmy Floyd Family Center stands today.

In 1919, a two-day fair was held on the square. Due to its success, a Fair Board was organized and until 1969, the county fair was held on Coles Ferry Pike. In 1973, Lebanon's Jaycees reorganized the fair, known as The Mid State Fair.

In 1974, the County Court – now the County Commission – bought 104 acres, the beginning of what is now the fair's home, the James E. Ward Agricultural Center. From 1975 to 1978, The Mid State Fair called the Ag Center its home.

Wilson County Promotions formed in 1979 to establish the Wilson County Fair. Attendance at the first fait was 12,000. By 1984, that had grown to 21,000. The county fair was named State Champion Fair for the first time in 1991 and by the turn of the century, the Wilson County Fair was the best-attended county fair in the state, drawing 257,000 people in 1999.

Today attendance regularly exceeds 400,000 during the nine-day event. James E. Ward, for whom the Ag Center is named, came to Wilson County in 1936 as the Extension Agent, where he served the county until his retirement in 1972.