Brittney Lofthouse – Contributing Writer
When leaders in Macon County met in 1953 to discuss the possibility of holding an annual county fair – without carnival rides – they were told that it would be impossible and not sustainable. The Feb. 12, 1953 meeting that first debated starting a county fair included Jaycees and agricultural workers who sought the input of A.Q. Ketner, a field representative of Coble Dairies out of Cherokee County. Ketner said that with his experience, which included 17 years operating the Cherokee County Fair, it would be impossible for Macon County to have a successful fair without a carnival.
“The only way to build a fair is to ignore the criticism of the carnival almost sure to come from preachers and newspapers,” Ketner was quoted saying in 1953.
With agriculture being such a large piece of Macon County, J.P. Brady, who served as the chairman of the Junior Chamber of Commerce Committee ignored Ketner’s advice and presented a plan for the Jaycees to get the ball rolling for the fair and then the local 4-H club would help to build it. This year, Macon County celebrated the 67th annual County Fair – and once again held the event without carnival rides and games.
This year’s fair was different. Due to COVID19 for the first time since the fair’s inception, it was closed to the public, only allowing Macon County Livestock Shows be held for exhibitors and families.
Because the Wayne Proffitt Agricultural Center obtains at least 70 percent of its annual operating revenue from the fair, Dennis Conley, chairman of the fair for more than five years, explained that a letter was sent out to the fair catalog mailing list as well as various vendors and buyers associated with the fair asking for a monetary gift in lieu of advertising or renting a booth.
While the community did provide the fair with donations and support when possible, the fair, and the Agriculture Center experienced a significant revenue decrease that put the future of the center in jeopardy.
To help alleviate some of the revenue loss, the Macon County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to provide the fair board with $8,000 to be spent for operating expenses such as rent, electricity, and other day-to-day costs.
“The Wayne Proffitt building that houses the fair is used by so many different community groups,” said Macon County Commissioner Ronnie Beale. “Since COVID19, the fairgrounds has served as a distribution site for MANNA Food boxes that has provided thousands of pounds of food to families in need in Macon County.”
Beale noted that ensuring the fairgrounds could continue operating was imperative for resources such as food distribution.
The funding approved by the board will come out of CARES ACT funding, which was allocated by the federal government to offset the costs of unexpected expenditures caused as a result of the COVID19 pandemic.