County fair named best in state

Wins award for first time since 1994
Feb. 07, 2013 @ 12:11 AM

When Sherri Crawford agreed last year to be the volunteer director of the Sevier County Fair during a period of turmoil, it was with a mission to make things better, to improve the property and to involve more children in the week of activities.

She and her fellow volunteers succeeded, and Tennessee has taken notice. The Sevier County Fair has been selected best in the state in competition with the largest county fairs.

This is no easy award to win. Judging is done by representatives of other county fairs in the same division, who visit the fair while it's going on and evaluate what they see. The results are then compiled, and and overall winner named.

Sevier County won in the AAA division, which represents the biggest ones in the state. It bested a number of larger operations, especially ones in Cumberland County — which draws more than 300,000 visitors during its week — and Wilson County. Last year the Sevier County Fair attracted some 17,000 visitors, up about 4,000 from the year before.

"We decided to market our fair so it was what we all thought fairs should be," Crawford said Tuesday. "We put a lot more into it. We got the community more involved, the youth more involved by using Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, and we gave back to the community more."

The fair opened early one day for special-needs children and set aside one night to urge visitors to bring canned goods for the local food bank.

In addition to the events, the facilities were upgraded, with new paint on buildings, new plumbing and an enhanced gate entrance.

"It feels great to win," County Commissioner Jimmie Temple, a long-time board member, said. "Sherri and her group and all the volunteers who help her worked so hard and got more funding and sponsors."

In other competitions, the fair took first in video presentation and best creative fair idea (for the scavenger hunt), a second place in the Pick Tennessee products display and third for decorative gourds.

One thing the fair was graded poorly on was parking, and a lot of visitors would agree with that assessment. Two of the fair's six days last September were affected by rain, which left the parking lot muddied.

However, that won't be the case this September. County Road Superintendent Jonas Smelcer is supervising an upgrade of the parking area, with new elevation for drainage, no more grass and a fully graveled surface.

Crawford took over in 2012 when the fair's previous director abruptly resigned. She spearheaded most of the changes while quickly adding that without the staff and volunteers the fair could not have been successful.

"The fair's a whole lot better than it was a few years ago," Temple said.

The award means the Sevier County Fair competes this year with winners of Divisions A (Overton County) and AA (Cocke County) to be named Champion of Champions, an honor it has never won. In fact the fair has only been named winner of its division once before: in 1994.

"This award gives us incentive to be even better in 2013," Crawford said.

The 2013 fair starts, as usual, on Labor Day, which this year is Sept. 2.