While an inaugural country ham breakfast hosted by the Future Farmers of America was one of this year's Tennessee State Fair highlights, volunteers, who put the Fair on annually, are also touting an increase in attendance and the payout of almost $150,000 in prize money.
John Rose, chairman of the Tennessee State Fair Association, said this week that the 2015 Fair continued an upward trend with regard to attendance initiated three years ago.
"We are focused as an all volunteer board on making the State Fair an educational, agricultural, entertainment, and family welcoming event," Rose said adding "that because of this we are seeing more and more families in attendance, baby strollers, millennials, and a broad demographic of fairgoers representing virtually all ages and income levels."
He credited events like the FFA Country Ham Breakfast, which attracted more than 400 patrons in this its first year, as a good example of how the Fair is reaching out to new audiences and making the public better aware of what is being offered during the 10 day extravaganza first started in Nashville more than 150 years ago.
"We continue to strive to make the Tennessee State Fair a production for which the entire state can be proud, attend, and enjoy," Rose said noting that the Fair routinely attracts attendees and exhibitors from counties all across the state.
General attendance for this year's State Fair climbed to nearly 115,000 representing an increase over the previous year of about five percent and over the 2013 Fair of about nine percent.
More than 2,200 exhibitors from all across Tennessee and some from even bordering states displayed handmade crafts, artwork, quilts, livestock, baked goods, country hams, vegetables, and other items taking home $145,000 in premiums, prize ribbons, and pride in knowing that they had competed against the best in their particular categories in the Volunteer state.
The 2015 Fair attracted 21 corporate sponsors/partners and numerous small business sponsorships, nonprofit displays, and private donations in support of the Fair's creative arts and livestock competitions.
A nonprofit entity operated by an all volunteer board, the Tennessee State Fair Association was formed in 2010 and produced its first State Fair in 2011.
The organization's mission is to promote the education of agriculture, horticulture, the creative arts, performing arts, industry, commerce, recreation, economic development, natural resources, and related areas to the public, through the planning, promotion, conduct, and operation of an annual Tennessee State Fair.
The State Fair is an annual exhibition of what makes America and Tennessee great. From coast to coast and somewhat closer to home from the Mississippi River to the Great Smokey Mountains, the Fair is in many ways a live hands-on exhibit of how we live our lives.