November 7, 2023
By: Dwayne Page
The Grandpa Fair of the South is one of the most exciting entertainment venues of the summer in DeKalb County and it’s normally held in mid-July. But in 2024, the DeKalb County Fair in Alexandria will be moving up on the schedule to June 24-29 and will become among the first fairs held during the year in Tennessee. Only Clay County’s fair will be held earlier.
Jeff McMillen, Fair Manager, said the reason for the earlier date is primarily due to having to schedule a new carnival, James Gang Amusements of Alabama.
For the last three years, the DeKalb County Fair has contracted with the B&K Carnival Company of South Carolina but the two sides were unable to come to terms on the dates for the fair next year.
“Our Board President initially met with B & K and they couldn’t give a specific date for next year’s fair except for the one they wanted to talk about in August and they (B&K) wanted to go to a five day fair instead of the six days we always have but we could not afford to do that and we didn’t want to be sandwiched in between the Putnam and Wilson County Fairs which are held in August,” said McMillen.
Because the DeKalb County Fair is a smaller venue than many others, McMillen said it had to find a carnival that would be the right fit and did so in the James Gang Amusement Company. Again, the only issue was setting a date for the fair next year.
“James Gang Amusements does the White, Putnam, and Smith County Fairs but the only date they had available that would work for us was June 24-29 and we are fine with it. The only thing it affects by having it that early is the availability of some produce straight out of the garden like tomatoes and stuff like that but maybe people could put a few plants out early if that’s what they want to do to get their produce entered in the fair,” McMillen continued.
Although nightly events on the hill at the T.C. McMillen arena are crowd pleasing, they are also costly and subject to cancellation in the event of rain. Still, McMillen said the fair board wants to schedule as many as possible next year and possibly acquire rain insurance for some events.
“We want to have an event every night on top of the hill like we used to do. We have already scheduled two nights of ATV/ Motorcycle racing and one night of a demolition derby as in the past but we are also looking at bringing back a rodeo along with a Monster truck and a Bump N Run Derby Racing event although those are not yet set in stone,” said McMillen.
The fair’s website is being revamped to make it more user friendly especially for mobile phone users; more rides may be added to the midway; and possibly a beefed-up schedule of entertainment at the Lion’s Club Pavilion in addition to the nightly pageants. Plans are also to have the premium book available earlier, perhaps by the first of the year.