Hamblen County to have first fair in 50 years

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Tuesday would mark the kick off to the inaugural East Tennessee State Fair. It's the county's first fair in 50 years. After a lot of planning, many people will be watching Cherokee Park to see if the age old tradition can make a comeback.

"Years ago, I think when county fairs started, there wasn't a lot of things for people to do," said James Graybeal, the manager of Drew Exposition.

Carnival workers set up rides, games and food stands to bring back an old tradition and improve the bottom line.

“Those are dollars that can create jobs and that's what we're all about here in Hamblen County is trying to create opportunities for our people," said Hamblen County Mayor Bill Britain.

Mayor Britain described his county's economy as a wheel. Tourism is just one spoke, but it's where he turned his focus.

"We started about three years ago and you're just now beginning to see the shift in increased hotel stays and increased sales tax collections and that kind of thing,” said Mayor Britain.

This week's fair won't look too different from the ones many remember from childhood, but there will be a modern take. Top notch performers will be there, including Confederate Railroad, Black Stone Cherry, Skid Row and Chris Cagle. These performances are drawing in guests from as far away as the United Kingdom.

"A lot of excited people, a lot of good activity, a lot of good music, a lot of fun, a lot of families. Those are my expectations," said Mayor Britain.

Those are his high expectations for a county set out to prove community isn't dead.

"I think things that folks can do local, that's always good," said Mayor Britain.

Jeffrey Dillard was hired a year ago with the sole purpose of boosting tourism with events like this one. He expects to take in more than $200,000 in profit during the course of three days.

Dillard also has big plans for future years, including an idea to turn the fair into a small Bonaroo with three stages. One of those stages is planned to be a floating one on Cherokee Lake.

The fair starts Tuesday afternoon at 4:30 and lasts until Saturday. The gates will open on Saturday at 10 a.m.

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