Each year, the Wilson County Fair honors old timers who have made an impact in the local community.
Cracker Barrel and Wilson County Promotions sponsor the event. Clayton and Robbie Gray and Geneva and Carlton Thomas were selected as the old timers for the 2018 Wilson County Fair.
The Grays were both raised on farms. Both attended Lebanon High School. They have been married for 63 years. They met at church. The minute he saw her, it was love at first sight. He knew she was the girl for him. Together, they raised two children, Terry and Pam. They have six grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.
The Grays attend Victory Baptist Church in Mt Juliet. They spend a lot of their time helping at their church. They helped establish Webb’s Chapel in the LaGuardo community. Later, they were asked to help start a church on Hobson Pike. Clayton Gray has served on several Tennessee Baptist disaster relief missions. The couple said God has always come first in their lives.
During their marriage they have worn many hats. Besides raising two children and taking care of her home, Robbie Gray also worked outside her home. She worked in county government for 30 years. She served in the tax assessor’s office and the trustee’s office. Later, she owned and operated a clothing store called Robbie’s Fashion World.
When Clayton Gray bought his farm, he had a goal to own 100 beef cows. He met that goal, but it was hard work with a public job and trying to run a farm. He finally sold everything and moved to Lebanon. He worked for Ross Gear for 34 years. He has served on several boards, including Wilson Bank & Trust Community Board, Farm Bureau, Wilson County Promotions and the LaGuardo Utility Water and Wastewater Authority.
The Grays worked at the polls for the Wilson County Election Commission for 32 years. Clayton Gray said his fondest memory of the fair would be the time he spent working in Fiddlers Grove. He took care of the Grove during the fair. He opened all the buildings and closed them at night and helped the volunteers in the Grove.
Carlton Thomas was raised in Whiteville. His father ran the local movie theater where he, his twin sister and older brother ran the projector and the concession stand. After his father died, his mother moved the family to Nashville to be close to her brother.
Geneva Thomas was raised on a cotton farm in Red Bay, Alabama, along with six siblings. After high school, she came to Nashville and lived with her brother while she attended business school. Her friend was dating Carlton Thomas. She fixed Geneva Thomas up with a blind date. After the boys took the girls home, Carlton Thomas went to his future wife’s house and asked her out. The sparks flew. One year later, they were married. Since the beginning of their marriage, they have had a passion to buy and restore furniture. They bought, restored and sold several homes.
They have two children, Lisa and Carlton Thomas III. In 1976, they bought an old home in Lebanon. They lived in a mobile home for seven years while they reconstructed the log home. They did all of this while they raised their family and worked full time jobs for the Tennessee Department of Transportation. They both worked there for 30 years until they retired in the early ’90s.
After the Thomases joined the Wilson County Fair Board, they met with Randall Clemons and discussed the construction of a historical village at the fairgrounds. They were instrumental in making that come true. Geneva Thomas met with Dr. G. Frank Burns about the history of Wilson County. He told her Neddy Jacobs was the first settler. He also mentioned he played the fiddle. It was decided the Village should be called Fiddlers Grove.
Geneva Thomas drew all the plans for the Grove. She took tree limbs and branches and laid out the streets and buildings that would be constructed. She found many of the buildings and got them donated to Fiddlers Grove. She wrote the history of each of the buildings. She was always available to give walking tours. On April 17, 1991, the groundbreaking ceremony was held for Fiddlers Grove. The first building was the Cartmel Cabin. Soon to follow was the Forbes Cabin, the kitchen behind the Forbes Cabin and Dr. Fisher’s Office. There are currently more than 50 buildings in the Grove.