By: Alyssa B. Martin
Originally named the Appalachian Exposition, then changed to East Tennessee Division Fair, the Tennessee Valley Fair has been an East Tennessee staple since 1910. As far back as anyone alive today has known, Chilhowee Park has been the home of the beloved fair. However, that was not always the case.
In the beginning, Knoxville was selected to hold the Appalachian Expedition, the first expedition held in the southern Appalachian region. Although the values behind the expedition are the same as the Tennessee Valley Fair, it wasn’t until 1916 until the expedition was re-branded and permanently became a beloved annual event and 1920 when James G. Sterchi purchased Chilhowee Park to be the fairgrounds. The park was later purchased by the City of Knoxville in 1930, during the Great Depression, to ensure Chilhowee Park would forever remain home to the Tennessee Valley Fair and took over the park’s year-round operations in 1978.
The Tennessee Valley Fair has held many firsts through the years and became a tradition, special place to many people in the area despite facing many obstacles. In 1926, the fair dropped 100,000 free tickets across East Tennessee by airplane and also showed the first ever talking movie during the fair. Less than 20 years later in 1942, the fair was unfortunately canceled due to World War II and was not able to resume until 1946. In recent years, the Tennessee Valley Fair has helped students learn about and grow a love for agriculture, furthering East Tennessee’s legacy. The fair has also grown up and coming artists, as well as bringing more people together through engagements, quality family time, good food and a friendly, positive, safe atmosphere.
Community has always been important to those involved with the Tennessee Valley Fair.
On the 99th year mark of the fair in 2018, the Tennessee Valley Fair Foundation was established. As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, their “mission is to preserve East Tennessee’s heritage by promoting agricultural awareness, supporting educational programs, and cultivating youth development,” according to the Tennessee Valley Fair website.
With the support from community members, they work to create scholarships and learning opportunities for youth while giving back to the community. More information on getting involved is available on the Fair’s website.
Although the original purpose of the Fair was to showcase East Tennessee’s heritage and agriculture, and remains so, the Tennessee Valley Fair is so much more than that. This year organizers announced there will now be 10 days filled with learning, games, attractions, agriculture and live music!
The Rodeo, ATV and Tractor / Truck Pulls, Demolition Derby are only a fraction of what the fair has to offer. This year will also feature a Beer Garden, Butterfly Kingdom, Fireworks, a Fair Food Throwdown, Mayberry Day, Hometown Heroes, dozens of food options, Cotton Candy Classic 5k and live performances from Riley Green, Joe Nichols, John Anderson and more!
The fair kickoffs on September 11th with tickets priced at $10 for adults, $8 for seniors and children 6-11 years old and children 5 and under free, all at the gate. Those attending the fair should also be prepared to pay for parking and visit www.tnvalleyfair.org for more information, including bag policies and concert ticket sales.