It’s time for the Fair

Mary Pom ClaiborneEast Knox, Our Town Youth

It’s early September which means the Ferris Wheel and Matterhorn rides are about to spin at the Tennessee Valley Fair. The gates open this Friday for the 106th time (well, probably a few short of that given Covid and other interruptions). You can read about the Fair’s history on their website.

Growing up, we knew it as the TVA&I Fair – short for Tennessee Valley Agricultural and Industrial Fair. We sailed past all the livestock barns and went straight to the Midway. God help the souls in our way as we’d bust to the front of the line for the fastest, curviest rides. Today, I prefer the company of prize chickens, sheep and cows.

Prior to the TVA&I Fair, Knoxville business leaders organized two major Appalachian Expositions in 1910 and 1911. They were the first of their kind in the region and set the stage for ensuing years. Terry Caruthers, special projects librarian at Knox County Public Library’s Calvin M. McClung Historical Collection uncovered the daily program supplements published in the Knoxville Sentinel from those years. They recount the day a wild steer got loose and ran amuck on the fairgrounds and other interesting stories. Chock full of articles, photographs, local business advertisements and a schedule of the planned activities, it’s worth a rabbit-hole adventure to explore the newly digitized collection.

Mary Pom Claiborne is assistant director for marketing, communications and development for Knox County Public Library

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