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State fair looking here

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Although the thought is that if the State Fair moved from its current site to Wilson County and the James E. Ward Agricultural Center, a source who asked not to be identified said another possible site would be property owned by Dover Downs, owner of the Nashville Superspeedway which is located off State Route 840. The property is located in Wilson and Rutherford Counties.

Metro Nashville State Fair Board officials hired a consultant, Markin Consulting, to look at options for the event which could include, rather than moving it out of Davidson County, renovating and rejuvenating the current site, or selling it for development purposes. The current State Fair site is also the longtime home of the Music City Motorplex racetrack.

Markin Consulting is to present its final report to the State Fair Board in October.

"The success of the Wilson County Fair is because we are the Wilson County Fair," Moss said. "People have a real sense of ownership about it" regardless of whether they have entered a cake in the Cake Baking Contest or are showing a chicken in the Poultry Show or getting an old clunker smashed in the Demolition Derby.

"A state fair is totally different than a county fair," he said, noting that generally, state fairs allow for more statewide competition in various categories.

The Tennessee State Fair does not exactly do that because it occurs before the county fair season ends, making it difficult for people from throughout the state to participate and attend.

"That’s the way it works in the Midwest," Moss said, citing fairs in Indiana and Ohio which draw a large number of people each year. "That’s a concept that Tennessee needs to look at."

The State Fair is held in September of each year. The Wilson County Fair is held the third week in August and this year will be Aug. 15-23.

Moss said someone who wins top honors for baking a chocolate cake should be able, if he or she wishes, to go on and bake the same cake and compete in the State Fair and that is not always possible now.

The idea of a state fair is not new and in fact has happened elsewhere. Moss said the Nebraska State Fair is moving this year from the campus of the University of Nebraska to some 30-40 miles northwest of Lincoln. In addition, the State Fair in Virginia is relocating from its present site.

A regional fair, the Mid-South Fair in Memphis, is moving closer to Tunica, Miss., he added.

If the Tennessee State Fair were to relocate to the Ward Ag Center (Wilson County Fairgrounds), it would be, Moss said, "a major undertaking. We don’t have the facilities where we are. We have trouble housing the photography exhibit" because of the large number of entries. The Livestock Show has grown in popularity, too, but a new Livestock Arena should alleviate space concerns.

Before any such move could occur, however, all the parties would have to agree. The Tennessee State Fair falls under the direction of Metro Nashville government. "Nashville and the state ought to sit down and talk. We’re not interested in changing our identity," Moss said.

He added that the Ward Ag Center is owned by Wilson County. The by-laws of Wilson County Promotions require that the non-profit entity produce the Wilson County Fair at the Ag Center.

"All of our profits go back for improvement of the Ward Ag Center," Moss noted.

In the meantime, he said, all anyone can do is to wait and see what happens with the final report. "We’re getting ready for "Home Spun, Family Fun" the theme of this year’s Wilson County Fair.

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