112 Years of the Middle Tennessee District Fair: What’s in Store This Year?
Updated: Dec 14, 2022
One of 21 county fairs across Middle Tennessee, the Middle Tennessee District Fair in Lawrenceburg rivals the Tennessee State Fair in popularity, entertainment and agricultural significance. It opens to the public on Friday, September 23.
Previously the Lawrence County Fair, the Tennessee General Assembly officially designated this event at the cusp of fall the Middle Tennessee District Fair in 1931. At this particularly low point during the Great Depression, the Middle Tennessee District Fair filled the void of the Tennessee State Fair, which temporarily paused because state funding for it was diverted elsewhere.
The fair has averaged nearly 100,000 attendees since 2019–a seventh of the attendance of The Tennessee State Fair, which had a record-breaking year this August with more than 776,000 attendees.
In its 112th year of operation, the fair celebrates a long history of delivering a state fair experience with county fair impacts.
Starting as a harvest festival meets farmers’ convention in the community of Leoma in 1910, the fair has expanded to 30 acres in Lawrenceburg Rotary Park with a “4,600-seat grandstand
and arena, a 23,000 square-foot livestock pavilion, and a 7-acre midway” according to Lawrence County history writer Clint Alley.
Seventy-two years ago, the Lawrenceburg Rotary Club took over sponsorship and management of the fair from Lawrence County and has steadily grown its reputation from a
celebration of agricultural disciplines to a cornucopia of awe-inspiring activities for all ages.
In the 1930s, the fair was a common stop for the Seils-Sterling Big 4 Ring Circus which brought acts such as equestrian trainers, aerialists, wire walkers and more.
Still today, you’ll find activities at the Middle Tennessee District Fair that are familiar with statewide fairs including livestock contests, amusement rides, a tractor pull, demolition derby where cars slam into each other like misguided bowling balls into gutter guards, and a concert by an A-list musician.
This year, the country music artist responsible for the number 1 hit “Backroad Song” will be headlining a show on Friday, September 30 at 7 p.m. In past years, the Lawrenceburg Rotary Club has snagged celebrity singers Lee Brice, Luke Bryan, Blake Shelton, Kelly Pickler, and even George Jones.
Despite modernized facilities and more varied activities, the fair hasn’t abandoned its agricultural roots.
Lawrence County and surrounding areas including Wayne, Giles, Maury, and Lewis counties boast 1,457 Future Farmers of America members—318 of which come from Lawrence County High School, Loretto High School, and Summertown High School—according to Ryan Inman, executive secretary for Tennessee FFA. Before COVID, 2150 individuals submitted 6,799 entries into agricultural contests such as:
4-H pullet show
Adult and 4-H baking
Beef cattle show
Meat goat show
Other counties’ UT Agricultural extension agents serve as judges for these shows.
It’s a miracle an event of this size is spearheaded by a group of local business and professional leaders with a community-first mindset. With the proceeds from the fair, the Lawrenceburg Rotary Club maintains Lawrenceburg Rotary Park for the public and expands its offerings.
This year, fair manager Tad Keaton has added two days to the fair making it a nine-day affair. From Friday, September 23 to Saturday October 1, you too can experience the Middle Tennessee District Fair—one of Tennessee’s longest-standing traditions and most impressive feats of community service.