Winston-Salem officials are taking a longer path toward possibly changing the name of the Dixie Classic Fair, with the cancellation of a couple of meetings this month that were originally designed to get a potential new name before the Winston-Salem City Council in August.
Assistant City Manager Ben Rowe said Monday’s meeting of the marketing committee of the Public Assembly Facilities Commission, along with next week’s meeting of the full Public Assembly Facilities Commission, was canceled.
Under the city council’s original timeline for considering a name change for the fair, the canceled meetings would have been held to come up with a potential new name that would take effect in 2020 after coming before the council in August.
Instead, Rowe said, city staffers plan to put together a proposal to hire a consultant to help the city come up with a new name, one that would go into effect in 2021.
“We are looking at engaging a consultant and having the consultant develop the new name and use focus groups to develop the name,” Rowe said, noting that the suggestion to do that came from a meeting of the Fair Planning Committee held in June.
Members of the committees and commissions who looked at the fair name have complained that the process was rushed: If the fair does get a new name, some members said, more effort should be put into making sure that whatever name is picked is one that can stand up for the long haul.
Opponents of the name Dixie came to a city council committee meeting in April to call on the city to change the name of the fair. Members of the group, including some ministers, said that the name Dixie evokes the South of slavery and segregation.
A city survey found an overwhelming majority of people wanted to keep the name Dixie. A public forum on changing the name brought out strong passions on both sides.
The city is considering the name change in a process that takes the idea through a number of committees.
On June 10, the Fair Planning Committee, first up in the process, voted to recommend that the city “reconsider” the name, but at the same time called on the city to take more time.
Some members of the committee pointed out that name changes usually take place in a process that brings in consultants to do things such as trying out names with focus groups.
And while the city had asked people to suggest new names during the survey, fair committee members said they felt they didn’t get much helpful feedback on that question. Instead, they said, the survey had become a referendum on the name Dixie.
Rowe said that he’s hopeful a consultant hired to help the city find a name won’t be too costly.
Rowe said he will likely bring the proposal to hire a consultant before two city council committees in August. The Finance Committee will hear about the idea first, since it involves spending money. After that, the city’s committee on general government will hear the proposal.