The Past and Present of the Agricultural Fair
Since it is that time of year again for the Lee County Regional Fair I thought it would be interesting to explore the history of fairs in North Carolina. So we begin with the state agricultural fair that was held in Raleigh back in 1853. In 1852 agricultural journal editor Dr. John F. Tompkins decided to try to improve agriculture in North Carolina. He organized a group of agriculture advocates to come together. The group decided that the best way to encourage North Carolina farmers to adopt better practices (scientific methods) of farming was through an annual State Fair. The fair, they hoped, would allow the society to demonstrate the best farming practices in the state to thousands of farmers, as well as provide an opportunity to teach better farming methods.
Thousands of North Carolina farmers came to the first State Fair, which awarded a grand total of $524 in premiums, or prizes, for the best exhibits of crops, livestock, agricultural machinery, and homemade household goods. At the society’s nightly meetings, some of the state’s best farmers and planters explained better farming methods to fair visitors. Visitors also enjoyed government-building tours in Raleigh, as well as a variety of social activities. A huge success, the fair grew rapidly.
The state government, local newspapers, and agricultural journals urged North Carolina farm families to take advantage of the fair in order to learn more about scientific agriculture and to meet people from other parts of the state. Railroads provided special rates and trains for passengers during fair week and allowed farmers to ship exhibits to the fair at reduced prices. Citizens of Raleigh, pleased to offer their goods and services to thousands of fair visitors, created more and more events to entertain them during fair week. The Agricultural Society held events such as horse races, sporting contests, shooting contests, and band concerts to encourage people to attend.
Since that time fairs have provided education in agriculture through the animal exhibits, livestock shows, and machinery and technology displays and have also drawn citizens for the entertainment such as the rides, games, concerts, etc.
The Lee County Regional Fair has been a huge promoter of agriculture. The Fair gives both our youth and adults the prime opportunity to showcase their talents through exhibiting livestock, field crops, and horticulture products. The Lee Regional Fair provides all adults, parents, and youth a chance to come out and see our youth and adults showcase their talents and interests. The Meat Goat Show starts at 7:00 pm on Wednesday, September 10. The Livestock Heifer and Steer Shows start at 7:00 pm on Thursday September 11. For more details, rules and regulations please refer to the 2014 Lee Regional Fair Catalog. Copies of the Lee Regional Fair Catalog can be picked up at the McSwain Extension Education Center, 2420 Tramway Road. I look forward to working with our youth in these events and seeing you all at the Fair!
Kim Tungate is Agriculture Agent, Field Crops and Livestock for North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Lee County.