Established in 1853, the Wilson County Fair has been a fixture of local culture in Tennessee since before the Civil War. It was first held on Coles Ferry Pike as the Third Division Fair. Through the years, the fair has changed names, locations and attractions. Today, more than 500,000 people visit the Wilson County Fair in August to enjoy exhibits, rides, entertainment, competitions and special events. As part of a Huffington Post Travel series on state and county fairs, here is our guide to making the Wilson County Fair as fun and rewarding as possible.
A Bit Of HistoryThe Wilson County Fair is held every year in Lebanon, Tennessee. It has received numerous honors throughout its history. A successful fair in 1919 led to the selling of stock, which funded development. Proceeds from the sale purchased 20 acres of land on Coles Ferry Pike, where a grandstand, a stable and a cattle barn were built. Throughout the years, ownership of the fair changed hands, as did the location and the name. The fair moved in 1979 to the James E. Ward Center, where it is held today. In 1991, the fair took top honors in the AAA division for county fairs, and by 1999, the Wilson County Fair was No. 1 in the state for attendance. According to the Wilson County Convention & Visitor’s Bureau, the Wilson County Fair has been rated the best county fair in the state of Tennessee and is one of the top fairs in the country.
Hog HeavenBut despite its awards and honors, the Wilson County Fair remains true to its roots. It wouldn't be a county fair without a livestock lineup, and in Wilson County, that means Hog-A-Rama (for 230- to 270-pound porkers) as well as classics like cattle and poultry shows. There is even an exotic animal show featuring the unusual animals of the county and a pig race.
More Than 75 CompetitionsWho makes the best barbeque in the county? The best salad dressing? Who is the expert at homemade ice cream? With more than 75 competitions, there is a challenge for nearly every kitchen-based talent, and beyond. For example, you couldn't possibly stage a Tennessee fair without a contest for best Bluegrass band. And for contemporary prodigies, there is even a text-messaging contest.
A Taste Of Wilson CountyBut patrons don’t need to compete to eat. A Taste of Wilson County is held every evening of the fair so that visitors have a chance to sample the county's best of the best, and get tips about the culinary arts. There are also a number of vendors spread throughout the fair, peddling their most delicious creations, and kiosks of classic carnival foods.
EntertainmentThe entertainment lineup is as diverse as the fare. From music headliners and fiddlers to Appalachian cloggers and a lumberjack show, multiple stages around the fair provide plenty of entertaining music, dance and talent. It wouldn’t be the South without a demolition derby. There’s even an antique-tractor pull.
Kids 'N' PlayThe Wilson County Fair has plenty to keep kids occupied. There are rides for thrill-seekers, such as a roller coaster and a Ferris wheel, plus plenty of kiddie rides and special events and exhibits for the little ones each day. Kids can also compete in a variety of pageants, such as the Doll Parade and King of the Fair, as well as in talent shows. Schools -- both public and private -- showcase their talents and knowledge in a special exhibit.
Fascinating point-of-view footage from Tennessee's Wilson County Fair. There's no narration -- just a four-minute journey through the heart of the neon-lit night.
What's your favorite kind of fair food?
Check out more FAIR GUIDES.
Photo: SeeMidTN.com (aka Brent); Flickr