On Monday, the Appalachian Fair will begin celebrating 85 years of memories with special events, old favorites and thrilling carnival rides.
Gates will open at 3 p.m. through Friday and at 10 a.m. on Saturday. There will be everything from beauty competitions to livestock exhibits and a demolition derby. The Golden Knights Parachute Team will even fall from the sky displaying special tandem parachuting techniques that haven’t been seen by fair-goers since 1994.
“We’re very excited here at the fairgrounds and everybody else is, too,” said Alan Shelton, interim secretary and manager for the 2011 Appalachian Fair. “The Golden Knights used to come yearly, but a lot of people have grown up since then and they are very excited to see them.”
The United States Army Parachute Team will jump three nights, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, at 7. They’ll fall from 12,500 feet and demonstrate several maneuvers, ending with the spectacular diamond formation and landing beside the Main Stage.
“It’s one of the smallest landing areas that they jump into,” Shelton said. “Everybody on the fairgrounds and even people on the interstate stop and watch them.”
Richard Shadden, the previous fair secretary and manager who passed away May 21, will be honored at the opening ceremony before the first Golden Knights’ jump on Monday. During his more than 20 years of service to the Appalachian Fair, Shadden was instrumental in booking the parachute team. Plenty photos of Shadden and other fair moments will be played on video loops set up in some of the buildings to commemorate the 85th anniversary.
Another special event on Monday is a Fairest of the Fair reunion that will take place on the Museum Stage before the competition at 8 p.m. Last year’s winner, Britney Hollaway, will be there to crown one of the 14 contestants. The Little Miss Fairest of the Fair pageant will be held Tuesday at 6 p.m.
Later in the week, on Thursday at 7 p.m., the Museum Stage will host the youth talent contest featuring dance groups, bands, singers or pianists between the ages of 13 and 21 who will compete for a chance to win $500.
A lot more prize money will be handed out to the winners of youth, home and garden, and livestock judging. One of the more traditional aspects of the fair is the opportunity for attendees to view the prize-winning goods like canned foods, quilts and photos. Live judging of foods like salads, cakes, pies and cobblers will take place in the Home and Garden Building Monday through Wednesday and Friday at 3 p.m.
“They win a little money and they get to show their product off,” Shelton said. “You have a lot of people who can foods and they like to see what’s been entered. Out of curiosity they compare it to what they can do.”
Other classic Appalachian Fair exhibits featuring wildlife and livestock will last all week. The Chick-Fil-A Barnyard Nursery is always a hit with young ones who enjoy petting and interacting with live animals.
“For a lot of kids, it’s the only chance they have to be close to these types of animals,” Shelton said.
During its 85-year history, the fair has always been based in agriculture and began as a half-day event called the Gray Community Fair in 1926. Shelton says that even though the Appalachian Fair clientele has changed over the years to include a population that is less involved in agriculture, the deep roots of tradition keep them coming back.
“A lot of the folks who saw it when they were young, they want their children and grandchildren to see it,” he said. “It’s still something worth seeing.”
Other events worth checking out take place at the Appalachian Arena. The week of high horse power kicks off with The Tennessee Moto-Cross Monday through Wednesday at 7 p.m., followed by round track racing Thursday at 7:30 p.m. and drag runs Friday at 7 p.m. The four-wheeled events will culminate with the legendary demolition derby on Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
All seating for events at the Appalachian Arena and the Museum Stage are free with paid gate admission, which costs $8 for adults, $3 for children ages 6-11 and children ages 5 and under get in free with an adult. Special promotions will be offered throughout the week, beginning with School Day on Monday. All students through high school will be admitted free until 6 p.m.
“Most people don’t understand what we have to offer out here,” Shelton said. “They’re under the impression that it’s just a farm thing and carnival rides, or they might thinks it’s just entertainment, but that’s just part of it. Basically, it’s just real good family fun, plus it’s cheaper than going to the movies.”
The carnival, owned and operated by James H. Drew Exposition, will be ready for riders Monday afternoon, with midway specials offered throughout the week.
For more information about the Appalachian Fair, visit www.appalachianfair.com or call 477-3211.