Timeline of the Dixie Classic Fair: 1882
The county’s first fair is a Wheat Fair held on Aug. 26, at Pace Warehouse. It features 28 wheat exhibitors, agricultural displays, speakers and a band.
The Wheat and Cattle Fair takes place on Aug. 30, also at Pace Warehouse.
A second day is added to the Wheat and Cattle Fair, and the exhibitors expand to include horses, hogs, sheep, hay, farm products and tobacco. Also, an entry fee is charged for the first time.
The Fair of the Bashavia Farmers’ Club of Vienna Township is held Oct. 21 at the District School House at Oak Grove.
In August, the State Fruit Fair is held over two days at Brown’s Warehouse at the corner of Main and Fifth streets. The 25-cent admission helps pay the premiums for winners of categories including fruits, vegetables, canned goods, flowers, wine and cider.
The first Forsyth County Fair is held at Oak Grove School House on Oct. 21.
The Winston Tobacco Fair is held from Nov. 3 to 5.
This year’s fair is renamed the Piedmont Tobacco Fair and is held Nov. 2 to 4. Attractions include a balloon ascension, bicycle parades, concerts and fireworks. The midway is on the square between Fourth, Fifth, Church and Railroad streets.
The Winston-Salem Horse Show, Carnival and County Fair take place Oct. 24 through 28, with an admission fee of 25 cents. Attractions include a ferris wheel and Wild West exhibitions and museum.
The first “colored fair” for black residents opens at Piedmont Park north of Winston in Forsyth County on Aug. 20. The fair garners notice as far away as Charlotte, where the newspaper notes the mile-long parade before the fair and large crowds. The fair has prizes for pretty women and babies, baseball games and trains from Winston every 30 minutes. Meanwhile, Piedmont Park and surrounding areas are home to the Piedmont Horse Show and Cattle Fair, the County Fair, the Street Fair and Winston’s Semi-Centennial Celebration from Oct. 30 to Nov. 3.
White fairs statewide organize to coordinate their schedules, with the Forsyth County Fair Association holdings its fair at Piedmont Park Oct. 28 to Nov. 2 following fairs on successive weeks in Greensboro, Burlington and Raleigh.
An annual Colored Fair begins in Rural Hall in 1904, continuing for a number of years. Meanwhile, efforts begin in Winston to organize a fair for black residents in the city. The fair for white residents moves for a short time to Patterson Avenue, near where Woodlawn Cemetery is today. The fair’s consistent growth means a new fairground needs to be built. In May 1908, almost 29 acres of land is acquired for this purpose from Piedmont Park, creating a site for the Winston-Salem Forsyth County Fair until 1950. Throughout the years of segregation there are separate fairs for white and black residents in Forsyth County. In its heyday, according to local historian Fam Brownlee, the fair for black residents is the second-largest in the state, behind only the State Fair in Raleigh. Over many years, the Winston-Salem Fair entertains all-white crowds, while the Western Carolina Fair hosts black audiences.
Charles H. Babcock donates land for a new fairgrounds at its current site; the fair is first held there in 1951.
The Carolina Colored Fair, later the Carolina Fair, for black residents is formed in 1953 after the dissolution of the Western Carolina Fair, its forerunner. The current fair gets its name of Dixie Classic Fair for Northwest North Carolina. Fair manager Neil Bolton is credited with changing the name to reach a wider geographical area.
Integration comes to the Dixie Classic Fair in 1963. The Carolina Fair starts going into decline as black residents spend their money at the larger Dixie Classic Fair. In 1964, Strate Shows Inc. begins providing the midway shows, rides and games at the Dixie Classic. The Carolina Fair closes in 1968. In 1969, the Winston-Salem Foundation gives the fairgrounds, Memorial Coliseum and $75,000 to the City of Winston-Salem. The fair generates income to cover its operating expenditures and other payments.
Memories of the Dixie Classic Fair
The Education Building is built to house competitive fair exhibits and offseason events.
The first historic log building is added to the fairgrounds and Yesterday Village is born. Today this section contains 19 structures that were built in the late 1700s and 1800s, including cabins, barns, a corn crib and a one-room schoolhouse.
The Neil Bolton Home and Garden Building is built and named for the fair manager from 1956 to 1972.
The fair celebrates its 125th anniversary and sets an attendance record of 371,219 — making it the 50th largest fair in North America.
The city starts calling the fairgrounds the Winston-Salem Fairgrounds but stresses that the fair name stays Dixie Classic. City officials say they had called the whole area, including Joel Coliseum, the Winston-Salem Entertainment-Sports Complex and needed a new marketing name after the sale of the Coliseum in 2013 to Wake Forest University.
Winston-Salem Council Member James Taylor suggests changing the name of the Dixie Classic Fair, saying the current name is a divisive reminder of the Confederacy. Taylor backs away in the face of a public outcry against the proposal.
Citizens propose removing the name of Dixie from the fair, saying it evokes slavery and the Confederacy.