It’s too late to turn back now. The votes have been taken and our local fall fair now has a new name: The Carolina Classic Fair.
The vote at Monday’s City Council meeting was 6-2, with three council members initially advocating for the name Piedmont Classic — which would have been fine, also. But Carolina Classic does harken back to both the Dixie Classic Fair and the Carolina Fair — the alternate, segregated fair of the 1960s that many black residents attended. Symbolically, it melds the two.
“It was an education to learn how the Dixie Classic Fair came to represent the only fall fair in our region,” Southwest Ward Council Member Dan Besse said. “We are bringing our shared history forward if we go to Carolina Classic.”
We’re glad that the matter is settled, though some local residents will likely carry a grudge for a while, insisting that the name shouldn’t have been changed in the first place.
Admittedly, the process was not ideal. After the possibility of changing the name was first suggested in April, and before there had been very much public discussion or a council vote, the City Council tasked the Fair Planning Committee with determining a new name. That committee wisely tossed the hot potato back to the City Council, pointing to the overwhelming response from a public survey to keep “Dixie Classic,” which had been the fair’s name since 1956.
From then, much discussion ensued, sometimes heated. Everyone had his or her say before the council finally decided in August that yes, the name would be changed.
We’d like to say, with no irony intended, that there were very fine people on both sides of the argument. Some found the previous name to evoke a sense of tradition and nostalgia. More than that, they seemed distressed by the idea of the name being changed to please what they saw as a small contingency of malcontents. Some seemed to feel the suggestion to change the name was an attack on them personally.
But on the other side of the issue were two groups with some overlap: Those who saw the name as an outdated reminder of a past that included slavery and segregation and those who thought the name might impede future investments in our area. Like it or not, “Dixie” does evoke negative and painful aspects of our history to many. To say that these people are insincere is presumptuous. To call them “troublemakers” evokes that same painful history.
As for our future, businesses and industries tend to get involved with and promote activities and events that have a broad appeal with little controversy. The new name will doubtless serve that desire better.
We live in a changing world. When the choice is between honoring either nostalgia or suffering, suffering should carry the day. “When I was a kid” is an argument that can be applied to many topics that have changed over time, including the rights of minorities. We’re a better society for working to repair past damage.
Of course, most aspects of the fair will not change. There will still be artful displays, cuddly farm animals, gut-wrenching rides, gut-busting food and plenty of gewgaws on which to spend hard-earned money. And most of us will still say, “Hey, do you want to go to the fair?” At a general-governance meeting last week, council member Vivian Burke said, “I just want peace and harmony, and if we can just move on from this and have an outstanding fair, the city will be pleased.” We agree.
Some say those who wanted the change should pay the cost of the change, estimated as high as $100,000. Well, they will, with their attendance and patronage. Others will still be paying for the pleasure of attending a premier fair that showcases much of the best of what makes us who we are.