Serving the community was nothing new to Dave Crouch, a local financial adviser and part-time farmer.
While his résumé includes serving on Franklin’s Planning Commission and Board of Mayor and Aldermen, he says it was a big surprise when he was nominated and voted to be the first chairman of the Williamson County Fair Board.
“Like a lot of people interested in 4-H and agriculture, I was always at the Extension Office bothering DeWayne Perry (retired 4-H and UT Extension Service director),” said Crouch, who raises Red Angus cattle. “He knew I had an interest in the Ag Center.”
Crouch was invited to a brainstorming meeting with County Mayor Rogers Anderson and several other people regarding ways to make better use of the Ag Expo Park.
During the meeting, Anderson wondered if having a county fair was a viable option.”
“That was a real good question,” Crouch said, who added that, by the end of the meeting, “the idea started taking shape.”
In another meeting, a fair board was formed, and Crouch found himself as chairman.
“I asked, ‘How do we do this?’” Crouch said.
The answer? The same way you eat an elephant: one bite at a time.
Hale Moss, the now late chairman of the Wilson County Fair, took Crouch and the board under his wing. Moss met with them regularly and provided information about the Wilson County Fair Board’s committee structure.
“I looked at the list and said, ‘We can do this. We only have to find the right people,’ Crouch said.
Wilson County had committees for everything. Crouch used the committees he thought the Williamson County Fair Board needed and each month picked a few of those committees and found people to chair them.
“One bite at a time and figuring out who can handle which bite,” Crouch said about the process.
It took six months to find people who had the time and were willing to make the personal commitment involved in developing something this huge from the ground up. Many are still involved.
When Crouch was finished establishing committees, he had 90 of them. All had a chairman and a budget.
“Keeping up with (the budget) drove me crazy,” he said.
Nancy Calhoun suggested that Crouch call Kay O’Connell to see if she could take care of budget spreadsheets.
“She had a good nose for smelling the committees that weren’t getting their work done,” he said.
Once the organizational part was complete, Crouch and Anderson spoke to the Williamson County Chamber of Commerce in an effort to get help spreading the word. The announcement generated a lot of excitement and people clamored to be a part of organizing the fair.
Someone suggested forming an ambassador committee for people who want to help but can’t do “grunt” work. Crouch explained.
“Gary Buchanan and (his late wife) Glenda chaired the committee and did a marvelous job,” he added.
Perry took care of the livestock competitions and, with Sherry Sanders and others who knew the agriculture world well, came up with the Little 1’s Farming.
“They needed $20,000,” Crouch said. “I had no idea what they were talking about, so I asked them, ‘What are you going to do?’ We found $25,000 worth of sponsors and made it happen. It became a real draw for families with kids and older folks who love to see the expressions on the kids’ faces.”
That first year, no fair official became a paid employee. Their reward that first year — and every year after — has been the smiles on the faces of people leaving after an evening or a few hours at the fair.
On Sunday evening of the first year, a few churches got together to hold a Sunday evening service in the arena. While the people were gathering for the service, Crouch looked out at the Interstate. Traffic was backed up and not moving.
“I was tickled to death,” he said. “We thought no one would show up.”
People were showing up at 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. for the midway even though the fair closed at midnight, he said.
After three years, Crouch resigned his position as chairman.
“I’m a big-picture person, pretty good at starting things,” he said. “Once they’re up and running, I prefer to see someone else run with the ideas. It was a lot of fun— One of the best experiences of my life. I always liked a challenge. That was definitely a challenge.”