Dixie Classic Fair Emphasizes Agriculture Roots
No matter how many children or generations there might be in a single family, Dixie Classic Fair director David Sparks believes the longtime event in Winston-Salem contains something to satisfy everyone’s appetite, interests and curiosity.
“That’s one of the things that really makes fairs distinctive from other events like amusement parks and parking lot carnivals is the emphasis on agriculture,” Sparks says. “Years and years ago, the country was agricultural country. People lived out in the countryside and came into the city on occasion to do business. As this country has become more urbanized, a lot of folks don’t have the opportunity to see things like my parents and grandparents did in agriculture.”
While the Dixie Classic Fair setting might be within the borders of one of North Carolina’s larger urban areas, Sparks emphasized the fair – now in its 129th year – takes all elements of agriculture and attempts to put a spotlight on them. From livestock to fruit, vegetables and grain to home economics, the Dixie Classic Fair boasts entries from throughout the Triad region and beyond.
“One of the most important things we do is to make agriculture livestock available here to see,” Sparks says. “A lot of folks, the closest they get to a farm or livestock is when they’re driving down the interstate and they happen to look off the side of the road and see a barn or some livestock out in the field. This way, they can come here and talk to the owners of the livestock, talk with the farmer and get first-hand experience about life in the country.”
Farm Bureau Connection to Fair
The Dixie Classic Fair might not have blossomed into the agriculture highlight event that it is without the volunteer assistance of Forsyth County Farm Bureau, especially longtime board member Harrell Dillon.
Dating back to when he was a teenager, Dillon participated in the fair cattle competition. Then in the early 1970s, he began to organize and oversee many events, including expansion of the farm garden display and growth of the cattle, swine, goat and sheep competitions.
What current Forsyth County Farm Bureau president Edgar Miller says he believes is Dillon’s greatest contribution to the Dixie Classic Fair is the orchestration of the Kindergarten Day. That’s when children from throughout the region turn the agricultural exhibits into working classrooms. Miller says thousands of children have made their way through barns and exhibit halls to gain experiences that last a lifetime.
“We’ve had as many as 2,500 children come at a time on Kindergarten Day,” Miller says.
Dillon’s wife, Bertha, elaborated on why her husband wanted to put together an event specifically geared toward children.
“He used Kindergarten Day as a way to foster the relationship between the fair, Farm Bureau, and 4-H,” Bertha Dillon says. “Students who visit the ag building encounter characters dressed as vegetables who give out info, stories, stickers, popcorn, water and just plain old-fashioned fun.”
Other Fair Highlights
Beyond the vast agriculture influence, the Dixie Classic Fair contains attractions and events that are hallmark to these fall family pilgrimages.
The midway has all sorts of food vendors, games and rides. Sparks explained that what makes this portion of the fair unique is how it is self-contained within the fairgrounds. Plus, a special area for the youngest fairgoers also is located within this fair segment. That way, as Sparks says, parents with young children do not have to mingle in the hustle and bustle of the main midway.
While this year’s fair begins on Sept. 30, planning for it started when last year’s fair opened. Sparks says he and the rest of the fair organizers use the event itself as a “working laboratory” to note what elements work well and what segments might need to be modified.
The fair’s annual catalogue is sent in early July, and Sparks says exhibitors begin to fill out entry forms soon afterward. New this year is a feature that allows contestants to complete forms online.
Alternating throughout the fair, which lasts more than a week, are grandstand events that include concerts and motorsports.
Another major Dixie Classic Fair attraction is the Yesterday Village, which consists of 19 log structures built in the 1800s. Along with strolling through a one-room church, general store/post office, two-story log home and several other beautiful historic buildings, visitors can watch blacksmiths, woodcarvers and bakers, as well as listen to bluegrass music.