Carl White's Life in the Carolinas

Prize Pumpkins and Pig Races
by Suzelle Sinclair
suzelle.sinclair@earthlink.net

“There are three things I’ve learned never to discuss with people: religion, politics, and the Great Pumpkin”
~Linus, It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown 

The end of summer brings with it the celebration of harvest. Agricultural fairs have long been a tradition in the Carolinas. Attending a fair is among my favorite autumn adventures. The sights, the sounds, the smells, and the flavors all celebrate the season. Nothing compare to the thrill of spinning in the air above the fairgrounds with the cool autumn air stirring all of the delightful aromas together. The combination of smells gives the fair its own unique fragrance.

DIXIE CLASSIC FAIR PHOTO (NOW NAMED THE CAROLINA CLASSIC FAIRE) COURTESY OF FORSYTH COUNTY PUBLIC LIBRARY PHOTOGRAPH COLLECTION
DIXIE CLASSIC FAIR PHOTO (NOW NAMED THE CAROLINA CLASSIC FAIRE) COURTESY OF FORSYTH COUNTY PUBLIC LIBRARY PHOTOGRAPH COLLECTION

In Winston-Salem, the agricultural fair precedes the joining of the two cities of Winston and Salem. Now known as the Carolina Classic Fair, it began in Salem in 1882. It combined with Winston’s Piedmont Tobacco Fair in 1897 to become the Winston-Salem Fair. In 1956 it became known as the Dixie Class Fair and recently was renamed the Carolina Classic Fair. The fairgrounds are located on the north side of Winston-Salem. It has been at this same location since 1951, and is the second largest agricultural fair in the state.

Many things have changed over the years, but one thing remains consistent, the celebration of the harvest. Blue ribbons still adorn the biggest pumpkin, best apple pie and of course the prized pig. The tradition continues of judging jams, jellies and other culinary delights made from the year’s harvest.

While some folks love the rides, the games, the shows or the fair food, my favorite remains the agricultural exhibits. The plumage on various poultry is spectacular, and watching the Hogway Speedway Racing Pigs is very entertaining. In some years past I overlooked the honey exhibit. I find it fascinating now, after learning more about honeybees from my favorite beekeeper, Sam, who you may remember from my previous column, Bees and Blueberries. There is always something new to learn from the agricultural exhibits, especially when you review the judging criteria. For example, not only is there a competitive entry for honey, but for beeswax and even mead, which is a delightful alcoholic beverage made from honey.

DIXIE CLASSIC FAIR 1948 (NOW NAMED THE CAROLINA CLASSIC FAIR) IMAGES COURTESY OF FORSYTH COUNTY PUBLIC LIBRARY PHOTOGRAPH COLLECTION. COLORIZED BY TIM VOGEL.
KATE HOSKINS AND ORA MCHAN JUDGING JELLY AT THE DIXIE CLASSIC FAIR, 1956 (NOW NAMED THE CAROLINA CLASSIC FAIR) IMAGES COURTESY OF FORSYTH COUNTY PUBLIC LIBRARY PHOTOGRAPH COLLECTION. COLORIZED BY TIM VOGEL.

As I look around and think about the many years the fair has been a part of our community, I cannot help but think of how many things have changed throughout the years. In 1882 there would not have been a beautiful array of lights like the ones that adorn the fair as we know it today. It was in 1882 that Thomas Edison started the first commercial electric power plant, lighting one square mile of lower Manhattan. During the 1920s, you would not have seen wine or mead judged openly at a county fair. Its manufacture, along with other alcoholic beverages, was prohibited by the eighteenth amendment to the United States Constitution. However, I do understand that during that time, judging of such alcoholic beverages continued across the Carolinas, especially in Wilkes County, North Carolina. However, there are no official records of these competitions.

As I turn to leave the fairgrounds, with the many lights and smells fading as I walk away, I carry the joy of my visit with me. There is something reassuring about a visit to the fair, especially in a time filled with so much uncertainty and change. Over the many years, filled with world wars, economic difficulties, and significant technological advancements, the celebration of a chicken with perfect plumage and the largest pumpkin remains unchanged.

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List of Agricultural Fairs. According to the North Carolina Association of Agricultural Fairs, there are 29 agricultural fairs across the state.  https://ncagfairs.com/tracker

Photos of one of the largest fairs in North America, the Dixie Classic Fair.
In 2020, this fair was renamed the Carolina Classic Fair. All Images courtesy of Forsyth County Public Library Photograph Collection.
Colorizations by Tim Vogel.
CHARLOTTE WEATHER