fair

The Wilson County Fair had an attendance total of nearly 580,000 in 2019. The attendance for the Tennessee State Fair in Nashville was approximately 105,000. FILE

The organization that runs the Wilson County Fair has formally expressed interest in hosting the Tennessee State Fair as a combined event next year.

Wilson County Promotions, which runs the popular fair in Lebanon, joined Davidson and Maury counties and submitted an “Expression of Interest” in being a potential site to host the state fair.

The Tennessee State Fair and Exposition Commission, which oversees the state fair, determined that its current fair home, The Fairgrounds Nashville, “lacks adequate facilities and is not a viable long-term home for the Tennessee State Fair.”

The Fairgrounds Nashville is about 117 acres, compared to the 267-acre James E. Ward Ag Center, home of the Wilson County Fair.

In 2017 the site was being considered for future Tennessee State fair. At that time, Tennessee State Fair officials wanted to hold the state fair at the fairgrounds, but separate from the Wilson County Fair at another date.

Kim Doddridge, Tennessee Department of Agriculture public information officer, said the commission met July 17 and formed an advisory group to explore the options of potential sites.

The group will provide a report and recommendation to the full commission by Oct. 1, according to Doddridge. The group will evaluate sites on five criteria — logistics and access, site area and infrastructure, workforce and volunteers, community assets and site procurement, development and operating costs.

The state fair typically relies on 200 employees and more than 550 volunteers, according to the commission. The Wilson County Fair is typically conducted through the 300-member Fair Board and 900-1,200 volunteers.

The Tennessee State Fair attendance last year was 105,148, compared to nearly 580,000 at the Wilson County Fair last year.

Metro Nashville government is currently working to redevelop the fairgrounds to include a Major League Soccer stadium and mixed-use developments, although Davidson County and Nashville leaders suggested the fair could still be viable in its current location moving forward.

A 2017 CSL International study the commission used to evaluate future sites at that time pointed to the Wilson County Expo Center and event facilities as positives for holding the state fair at the site. However, it noted the area had a “limited destination appeal of the market.”

“If the commission ultimately decides to relocate the fair, the commission will then make a recommendation to (Gov. Bill Lee and the Tennessee legislature) regarding financial and legislative actions that would be needed to proceed,” Doddridge said.

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