'Fair' weather helps smash attendance records

By PATRICK HALL, The Wilson Post
LEBANON -- This summers heat wave tapered off just in time to allow folks to attend the Wilson County Fair in record numbers on three of the first four days of the 2011 run and with good weather in the forecast, fair officials expect attendance to continue to be higher than last year.

The first day of the Fair, Friday Aug. 12, brought in 51,302 people, a record for its opening day and an increase of 18,869 over 2010. The opening day record prior to this year was 41,102 back in 2004.

I believe three out of the four were records this year, said Hale Moss, president of Wilson County Promotions.

The 2011 Fair has also set attendance records on Sunday and Monday, with the most current attendance numbers going through Monday night. On Sunday, when temperatures were just right, attendance reached 73,576, more than doubling the attendance on the same Sunday in 2010.

I think toward later in the evening we had people who may have been looking for a jacket on Sunday, Moss said, referring to the cooler temperatures.

Moss pointed to the intense heat in 2010 that kept attendance down, which lead to a complete rain-out of the Fair on Wednesday, Aug. 18 last year. The fair closed that day for the first time in its history.

We had that front last year that brought in the rain, but to have this many days of this weather is incredible, Moss said.

He called the weather so far this year ideal fair weather and said theyve kept and eye on the forecast for the remainder of the week and said they look to be in good shape.

Monday night, country music star John Anderson performed at the Fair, which saw an increase in attendance over last year as well. That night, 31,401 people were in attendance, a record for the first Monday.

Moss said they filled the arena for John Anderson and the crowd was pretty comparable in size to last years Charlie Daniels concert.

Also on Tuesday, Wilson County Promotions announced that Robert L. Hodge and the late Charlie T. Bissinger were to be the co-recipients of the 2011 Mike Baker Friend and Supporter of the Fair Award.

Hodge was presented the award last night just prior to the Great Give-A-Way in the Outdoor Arena. This annual award recognizes business people in Wilson County who have gone above and beyond in their support of the Fair. It is given in memory of Mike Baker, longtime chairman of the Fairs Great Give-A-Way Committee.

Hodge, a U.S. Army Veteran, and his wife of 51 years, Virginia, have owned and operated Sunset Restaurant in Lebanon since 1967. Hodge is a member of the Lebanon Masonic Lodge #98 and over the years has sponsored many local youth programs in the county. Hodge and his wife have four children, 14 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren.

Bissinger owned and operated Charlies Tire Store in Lebanon from 1968 until 1999. He was a Meals on Wheels volunteer at the Lebanon Senior Citizens Center and a member of Immanuel Baptist Church.

He was a volunteer and supporter of the American Red Cross and gave over 13 gallons of blood in his lifetime. He was married to Claudine Wilkerson Bissinger, had three children and five grandchildren. Charlie was born in Davidson County in 1943 and passed away on June 27, 2011.

Both Hodge and Bissinger supported the Wilson County Fair over the years as their businesses were devoted sponsors of the Great Give-A-Way. Both of these businesses were located on South Cumberland Street in Lebanon.

Staff Writer Patrick Hall may be contacted at phall@wilsonpost.com.