Taking baby steps toward a new name for the Dixie Classic Fair, Winston-Salem’s general government committee on Tuesday endorsed putting the new name — whatever it turns out to be — into use for the 2020 fair.
With only a few citizens present, a heavy corps of journalists turned out for an expected dramatic moment on Tuesday. The committee, however, passed for the session on what the new name should be.
The full Winston-Salem City Council will vote on Monday whether to chisel into stone the 2020 timing for the new name.
A staff suggestion to call the fair the Twin City Classic didn’t look very healthy after Tuesday’s meeting, with two city council members panning the choice. No other suggestions were put forth on Tuesday. People are saying that Twin City is too narrow for a fair that has a regional reach.
Roger Kirkman, the only person who signed up to speak during the meeting, told council members that the fair is “not of just one county” but has “served the Northwest in the same attendance class of many state fairs.”
Calling the fair by a name that refers only to Winston-Salem, he said, “excludes not only the entire Northwest, but diminishes itself further by leaving out the county it is in.”
Driving home the same point in an email sent to Mayor Allen Joines and council members, Kathleen Garber, the chair of the city’s Fair Planning Committee, said that it was “very disheartening to see multiple recommendations from our committee, city management and fair staff be ignored” in favor of the Twin City name.
“The fair is owned by the city of Winston-Salem, but it draws in attendees, participants, vendors and exhibitors from all over Northwest North Carolina and beyond,” Garber wrote.
Trying to cap off months of controversy, the council voted on Aug. 19 to change the name of the fair but didn’t say what the new name should be.
In April, some residents complained that the word Dixie in the fair smacked of slavery and segregation because of its association with the Old South. Defenders called the name a common regional moniker and cited uses ranging from Dixie cups to Dixie Crystals sugar.
East Ward Council Member Annette Scippio argued for delay in picking a new name during Tuesday’s meeting. She learned from Assistant City Manager Ben Rowe that the city could wait until early 2020 at the very latest to change the name in time for the fall 2020 fair.
Scippio said that with efforts by the chamber of commerce and others to study ways to better promote the city, perhaps the city should wait and see what comes out of that.
That suggestion brought an objection from Northwest Ward Council Member Jeff MacIntosh, who pointed out that the city had previously tossed the name-change task to citizen committees, only to pull it back in favor of the council deciding for itself.
“We could get good feedback from the chamber, but we have already kicked it over once to someone. I would not want to wait on that process.”
The push to set 2020 as the season for a new fair name was made by Besse, who said he didn’t want any needless delay.
“The opinion I get from constituents is clear on one point: ‘Don’t you have other more important things you need to be spending your time on?’ (and) the answer is yes,” Besse said.
“This is a powerful symbolic issue on which we are never going to get a public consensus. We have gotten a lot of input, from Winston-Salem, from all across the country, 14 states, including folks in Hawaii.”
The vote on the committee was 3-0 on Besse’s motion to make the change effective in 2020. The committee members voting were North Ward Council Member D.D. Adams, Besse and Scippio. Member Robert Clark of West Ward was absent.
South Ward Council Member John Larson could be heard telling someone in the audience before the meeting that he was opposed to the Twin City name. In committee, he said he wanted more than one choice for a name.
City administrators said they polled council members before deciding to submit the Twin City name, although they acknowledged that there were multiple suggestions from the council, including Carolina Classic, Winston-Salem Classic and, simply, Classic.
As it now stands, the general government committee will consider the name once again in October.
“We have eight members and probably eight opinions,” Besse said. “At some point, we will have to pick one.”