The Dickson County Fair is an annual event held every year in Dickson.
The Dickson County Fair was inspired by another fair a few miles away in Nashville, the Tennessee State Fair. It started in the 1850’s but only lasted a few years. It was revived after the Civil War, but again ended after only a few years. Those first versions of the Tennessee State Fair were held on the grounds that would later become Centennial Park in Nashville. The State Fair was not held again for a few decades, but it was revived in 1906 and it became an annual event after that. Soon, surrounding counties began developing their own local county fairs.
In 1908, there were reports of a “Fair Association” forming in Dickson County with its main purpose being to put on a local county fair. It took a few years to get the event together, but leadership in Dickson County had finally begun making plans for the first county fair by 1912.
Planning began in September and the whole community got involved. Business leaders were approached about sponsoring the fair and the local merchants completely financed it. The first Dickson County Fair was 100% free to the public.
Leading up the event the promoters did their best to get the word out. There were ads in the local newspapers announcing the details of the fair, encouraging people to get out and support it.
The first fair was scheduled to last two days, October 11th and 12th, 1912 and the main purpose of the fair was to showcase livestock and farm products from Dickson County. The locals were encouraged to “get together your best specimens from the farm to exhibit at the county fair.”
The first fair was held in Dickson on the grounds of the old courthouse located where the War Memorial Building is today. There were various exhibits including one for canned fruit and preservatives. There were contests and awards given out to the winners of each event.
The first fair was deemed a success and plans immediately began being made for a second event a year later.
In September of 1913, the Fair Association returned and began planning the second annual fair. It was supposed to be bigger and better than the first one. The event was expanded to last four days and each day had a theme.
The first day was known as “Dickson Day,” focusing on people from the town of Dickson. The second day was “Dickson County Day.” The third day was Nashville day, to encourage people from the capital city to attend. The last day was known as “Public School Day” to honor the students and faculty of the local schools. There were speeches planned on the value and importance of education for the final day.
The second fair proved to be even bigger and better than the first one. There were concessions and stands for people to sit down to hear speeches. Speakers addressed the crowds of farmers each day on livestock raising, and agriculture development. There were also other special exhibits to entertain the guests. The fair committee raised $1,200 for fair prizes that were given to the winners of each contest.
Just like the first year, local merchants financed the second annual fair and there was no admission fee, it was again free to everyone.
To help encourage a large crowd, the railroad announced that they would reduce their rates to and from Dickson during fair week to encourage a large crowd from Nashville and surrounding areas to attend the fair. The second annual Dickson County Fair proved to be another successful event.
In 1914 the third annual fair took place. Like the first two fairs, the third one was another big event that drew crowds from all over the area.
A young teacher named Miss Dickie Shipp brought her students to entertain the fair crowds. Miss Dockie was a teaching prodigy who had graduated from the Dickson Normal College. She specialized in teaching “expression.” Her students gave speeches, recited short readings, and acted in several short plays.
Another important addition to the third annual fair was the new annual Friday football game. Dickson took on Wallace University from Nashville in their first game of the season.
With these new additions, promoters expected the third annual fair to be the largest gathering in the history of the county.
The first three fairs set the stage for an annual event to be held every year. Eventually the fairgrounds were purchased and that became the new site of the fair.
Today, we still have a fair every year, just after the school year starts in the fall. It’s an annual tradition that will hopefully be around for a really long time.