During the pandemic, the Tennessee State Fair and the Wilson County Fair were merged. Since 2020, the two fairs have taken place together on the Wilson County Fair Grounds under the coordination efforts of Wilson County Promotions, Inc. (WCP). WCP is a non-profit formed in 1979 to insure the Wilson County Fair continues to grow and develop to higher and higher levels of success. It has, since that time, reached growth goals and won a number of awards. Because of their success, they were asked in 2019 to take over the management of the Tennessee State Fair.
“The State of Tennessee has asked us for a number of years to do that,” said Helen McPeak, Executive Director, Wilson County Promotions, “us being the largest fair in Tennessee. We never wanted that title, we have just always wanted to be the very best fair we could possibly be…[Our goal this year] is to unite every county in the State of Tennessee.”
The fair will be bigger and better than ever, running from August 17 through August 26, 2023. Its theme is “95 Reasons to Celebrate Tennessee: All Rows Lead to Tennessee.” The “rows” coming from this year’s agriculture focus being “The Year of Corn.”
“In promoting corn as an agricultural commodity this year, there will be educational displays throughout the grounds, a corn eating contest, a Corn Everything digital photo contest and a contest making a Scarecrow Goddess from corn stalks,” says the fair’s program.
Although the fairs have merged, there are still infinite numbers of Wilson County Competitions, from various beauty competitions, including “The Fairest of the Fair,” to agriculture competitions, to cooking competitions, to sewing and crafts competitions, to photography and home décor competitions.
There will also be state-level competitions. State-level competitions will cover categories for livestock, horses and mules, as well as 4-H and Future Farmers of America. Other open competitions include motorsports, demolition derby, rodeo, canning, honey production and much, much more.
“There is so much to see and do,” added McPeak, “you cannot do it all in one night… More than twenty-one thousand exhibit entries were made into competitions last year, [we expect more this year]…And there will be more than 150 events taking place this year.” The 122-page fair program can be found here.
Some fun new competitions open to the general public include the “Mom Calling Contest” and the “Husband Calling Contest” to take place on August 19.
The “Mom Calling Contest” is open to fair-goers between the ages of five and nine. Anyone wishing to enter must register in advance at wilsoncountytnstatefair.com. All entrants will have one minute to call their mom. It will take place at 1:00 p.m.
Husband callers will take the Opry Stage at 3:00 p.m. Contestants are invited to wear their best husband calling outfit, and they have one minute to get his attention. No profanity will be allowed. Anyone wishing to enter this contest must also register in advance at wilsoncountytnstatefair.com. Inspiration can be found from other state fairs here.
Calling contests are only one of many activities taking place on the fifteen stages gracing the grounds, up from eleven stages last year. Musical performances can be found here. Genres cover everything from Country to Rock and Roll. On Sunday, August 20, WSM, the longest running radio program, will broadcast from the Opry State featuring a night of rising stars. Point of Grace will also perform on August 20, on the Entertainment State. The Jazz Alliance Big Band will play dance music beginning at 7:00 p.m. on the Fiddler’s Grove Pavilion on Friday, August 25. And Little Texas will be performing on the Entertainment Stage on Monday, August 21 at 5:30 p.m. This listing doesn’t even scratch the surface of all the entertainment taking place during the fair!
One of the things that the fair prides itself on is being a giant outdoor classroom, educating fair goers about the importance and impact of agriculture on communities and on lives.
“We think everyone needs to know where their food and their clothing comes from,” added McPeak. “When we have a delicious meal, we need to thank a farmer.”
This year the fair will once again highlight the state’s 95 counties and their products in the brand new Made in Tennessee Building. There will be a Travel Tennessee exhibit in the building highlighting what makes each county unique. There will also be a Made in Tennessee store featuring locally made products from all over the state. Also taking place in the building will be the showing of the winners of the Best of Tennessee Awards.
“More than 2,700 products are made in Tennessee,” explained McPeak. “We need to support and give recognition to these products.”
Staying true to being Tennessee’s largest classroom, there will be a STEM Exhibit in the School House (Building G). Additional focuses on stem will take place during the “Robotics Challenge,” “Brick Olympics,” and the new “Remote Controlled Mini Demolition Derby.”
On August 21, there will be a Farm-to-Table dinner at 6:00 p.m. at the Fiddler’s Grove Pavilion. Sponsored by Edible Nashville magazine, the diner will be created by Chef Skylar Bush. Bush is the Executive Chef for Edible Nashville, the city’s premier food magazine. Originally from Alabama, his Southern roots heavily influence his cooking style along with the time he spent cooking in south Asia. He is also the former chef of Park Cafe and The Southern and has collaborated with The Honeysuckle. Seating is limited. Order tickets here.
Opening day is on August 17 beginning at 5:30 p.m. with the Pick Tennessee Experience ribbon cutting. That will be followed by the welcome and Grand Opening at 6:00 p.m., with the parade beginning at 7:00 p.m. Tickets on opening day are half price.
General admission will be $12 for adults, $6 for children 6 to 12 years of age, and those under 6 will be free. A Special Needs Day will take place on August 19, and a Senior Citizens Day on August 22. Each will also offer special entry fees. More about tickets and ticket discounts are available here.
“We had record breaking attendance last year,” noted McPeak, “776,195 came. “That does not include exhibitors, volunteers and vendors… The weather can make you or break you.” But they hope that temperatures are similar to last year, in the 80s, and that even more attend this year.