Showcasing Community Talents, From the Past to the Present

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September is finally here! I love this month because it means cooler weather, outdoor living, college football, and the Lee Regional Fair. The “kick-off” of the fair season offers me the perfect opportunity to explore the history of fairs across North Carolina and share that with you.

In 1852, agricultural journal editor Dr. John F. Tompkins decided to try to improve agriculture in North Carolina and organized a group of agriculture advocates to come together. The group agreed that an annual State Fair symposium was the best way to encourage North Carolina farmers to adopt better practices, including the most current scientific methods and research. The fair, they hoped, would demonstrate the best farming practices in the state to thousands of farmers and provide an opportunity to showcase new and best practices.

Thousands of North Carolina farmers came to the first State Fair, which awarded $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 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 the fair week. The Agricultural Society held horse races, sporting contests, shooting contests, and concerts to encourage people to attend.

Since then, fairs have provided education in agriculture through animal exhibits, livestock shows, machinery, and technology displays and have also drawn citizens for entertainment such as rides, games, concerts, etc.

Bringing it home in 1938, the Sanford Lions Club sponsored the Lee Regional Fair and promoted local agriculture. After WWII, the membership acquired the current property, and this month the 23-acre site will host around 30,000 people beginning on September 13th.

The Lee Regional Fair allows youths and adults to showcase their talents by exhibiting livestock, field crops, horticulture products, crafts, antiques, and more. Youth and adult exhibit entry begins with the educational booth set-up on Thursday, September 7th. Bill Stone urged you to begin thinking about your individual entries a couple of months ago! Today and tomorrow are the days to bring those exhibits to the fairgrounds. I hope you win blue!

The fair opens on Wednesday, September 13th, with a fun parade and ribbon-cutting ceremony. 4-H will be hosting the Meat Goat Show in the barn that night at 6:00. The 4-H Livestock Heifer and Steer show will be at the same time the next night, and then come back on Friday to watch the new 4-H Poultry Show. Throughout the week, you will see 4-H members volunteering and demonstrating their talents around the fairgrounds. Look for the 4-H Flavor Fighters in the artisan booth on Wednesday. If you want more information about the fair or 4-H, call me.

I look forward to seeing you all at the fair for these and all the other events that will entertain Lee County this month!

Pam Kerley is the 4-H Program Assistant for North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Lee County Center. 4-H is a positive youth development program offering programs that suit a variety of backgrounds, interests, budgets, and schedules. From in-school to after-school, clubs to camps, 4-H programs are available in Lee County, and we welcome children who want to have fun, learn, and grow. In North Carolina, 4-H is brought to you by the NC State Cooperative Extension. N.C. Cooperative Extension’s experts and educators share university knowledge, information, and tools you can use daily to improve your life. This article is a compilation of past articles and current events.