Williamson County has a rich history, and agriculture has played an important part of that history.
Until recent years, agriculture has been a driving force in the county’s economy. In the 1950s, the county had more than 3,000 farms.
As far back as 1857, when the first documented Williamson County Fair was held at McGavock’s Grove, now known as Carnton, it promoted new agricultural trends and ideas. But more importantly, the annual event brought residents and families who were scattered throughout the county together for a couple days.
In 1858, the fair moved to land along what is now Fair Street in Franklin.
After the Civil War, the fair took on greater importance in a Southern county recovering from bloody battles. A few prominent businessmen purchased a plot of land along Columbia Avenue for the 1869 fair. A county fair was held each year in the area of what is now Fairground Street until 1927, when first the Great Depression and then later World War II diverted energy and resources.
In 1948, the Junior Chamber of Commerce — better known as the Jaycees — revived the fair as a means of showcasing advances in agriculture and host a countywide family reunion for the 25,000 residents of a large, rural county with more than 3,000 farms. For two years, the Jaycees held the fair along Fowlkes Street just off Columbia Avenue. A year later, the Franklin Noon Rotary began holding its annual rodeo at the same location before it moved to Jim Warren Park. The Community Services building now occupies that site.
There is some speculation about the exact reasons why the fair ended in 1950. Some say it was because the Tennessee State Fair affected the event. Others say it became too big for the group to handle. Also, photos show a storm caused flooding of the fairgrounds that year. That may have topped the list of reasons.
Williamson County’s agrarian economy has changed since 1950; however, the natural bond with the land has not. Backyard gardens have replaced the thousands of acres of row crops and hay fields; 1-acre barnyards replaced acreage used for flocks of chickens and herds of cattle and horses that once defined the agriculture of the county.
The idea of a county fair was lost, but not forever. Fifty-five years later, in 2005, the Williamson County Fair came back to life, and this year it celebrates its 15th anniversary.