Winston Salem Fair Name Change Splits City Council

Luciano Gonzalez
Staff Writer

PC: Barney Barnes

Winston-Salem’s annual fair is undergoing a name change. The fair, which has been called the “Dixie-Classic Fair” since 1956, is changing its name following a vote supporting the dropping of the word “Dixie” from the name of the fair. 

“Dixie” frequently appears in words in the South, and is often associated with the very idea of things being southern. For the Democrats in the Winston-Salem City Council, the word itself represented a variety of things. 

When speaking about the fair, Democrat Councilwoman DD Adams representing the North Ward, spoke to the pain of being barred from attending the fair during the period in which the fair was racially-segregated. 

“I couldn’t go to the Dixie Classic Fair, riding by with my dad, picking up my mom cleaning houses in Buena Vista, and we wanted to go because the lights were so bright and pretty as little kids, And we were like, ‘Dad, Mommy, we wanna go,’ said Adams. “They did not have the …whatever you want to call it within themselves to tell their children that they could not go because of the color of their skin.”

Another Democrat who spoke publicly about the motion to change the name of the fair was Dan Besse, the sole white Democrat who supported the name change. He spoke about the fact that there was nothing that uniquely tied “Dixie” to Winston-Salem. 

“It’s widely understood to refer to the American South generally, with all the associations that raises, from hospitality and sweet tea to Jim Crow and the Confederacy,” said Besse. “The meaning of the name shapes itself to the experience of the beholder.”

This is not the first time that a member of the council recommended changing the name of the fair. In 2015, James Taylor Jr, the representative of the Southeast ward, suggested changing the name. The reaction his suggestion received is what motivated his decision to abstain from the vote. He was the sole absentee, but the lone Republican in the council wasn’t present during the vote. Councilman Taylor’s suggestion was met by deeply negative responses, some of which were threats. 

There was a period during which public comments could be made after the vote to change the name took place. During this public comment period, four people were supportive of the vote, and three people responded to it negatively. 

Some of the remarks were decidedly political. One resident of Winston-Salem, Kris McCann, who has unsuccessfully run for office in the past, made use of the period of public comments to lambast the vote and to declare his intent to create a committee that would explore how he would fare if he ran for mayor of Winston-Salem.

Speakers who supported the decision to rename the vote celebrated during the public comments period and one of them, Bishop Todd Fulton who is the social justice chair of the Ministers Conference of Winston-Salem & Vicinity, said that with this decision taxpayers will no longer pay in Winston-Salem to deal with pain caused by the memories and thoughts invoked by the fair’s name. 



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