This year’s event features annual favorites such as unlimited carnival rides for $22, a truck pull which usually attracts about 60 hitches, and a pie eating contest. There are new events at the fair as well, such as a children’s lawn mower rodeo, a tractor pull which will feature antique and new tractors, and fireworks to end Saturday’s events at 9:30 pm. Saturday night will also offer a movie tent with Bobby Edwards showing “Life in Wilmington-The 1930s.” The film features shots of the Farmers’ Day fairs of that decade, as well as footage of the flood of 1938.
Gates open today at 4:30 pm, with events lasting until 10:30 pm through Sunday. According to event organizer Ann Brown, the fair typically draws 5,000 to 8,000 people, with the largest crowd coming on opening night for the ever-popular truck pull. Each year, the event’s infrastructure is improved as well, and this year the board of organizers focused on improving the electrical system, relocating it underground.
While Brown says that in recent years volunteer numbers have dwindled, and brought the fair’s survival into question, last year proved to be a defining year for the event. “I would have questioned how much the community cares until last year,” said Brown “Last year, I personally reached out to the public and said ‘The fair is in jeopardy, the same people can’t keep doing this, putting in way too many hours. This could be the last fair if we don’t get some help.’ People really came out of the woodwork and it was nice to see that the fair matters to the people.”
But, resiliency is the name of the game when an event sticks around for over 150 years. Brown says this is thanks to the hard work of those who see its importance and historical value. Brown is a fourth-generation event organizer and her father, Stan Cross, has been involved for over six decades. Of course a lot has changed in that time. Showing livestock, hay and produce, and horse pulls have been replaced with demolition derbies and carnival rides, but Cross says the basic idea of it is what keeps it running strong. “It’s a time to come down and meet the neighbors,” said Cross. “You meet people down here that you haven’t seen since last year’s fair, and it’s a social event as well as good times.”
The fair features something for everyone. For the competitive there are the pull events, for the musician there’s the country jam session on Friday afternoon. For the auto enthusiast there’s a car show on Sunday morning, and for the kids, there’s a little of everything. The Wilmington High School class of 1978 is even holding their 35th reunion at the fair.
Even though the fair begins today there is still a need for volunteers and anyone interested can call Brown at (802) 451-6065.