One of the first challenges in developing the first Williamson County Fair, and every fair since, was finding the money to make it happen.
The fair is not affiliated with the Williamson County government. No taxpayer dollars went into getting the fair off the ground, and no taxpayer dollars fund it now. The fair board is a 501(c)3 nonprofit that operates on a budget from revenue it makes from ticket sales, vendors and the generosity of sponsors and partners. It has one part-time paid employee. Everyone else, from the fair chairman to the ambassadors, serves as a volunteer.
To get the first fair off the ground, organizers relied on business and corporate sponsors willing to take a chance on an unproven event. Tractor Supply Co., which has been the presenting sponsor for several years, and all the others have remained committed to what became a proven success.
Phil Reiter, vice president of national marketing at Tractor Supply Co., said, “State and local fairs have a longstanding tradition of bringing people of all ages together to celebrate the community and the key role that agriculture plays in their lives. The Williamson County Fair is something our local team members look forward to every year, and supporting this event for the past 15 years has been a way for us to share our passion for agriculture, livestock and pets with our neighbors.
“This year, we look forward to sponsoring the Livestock Village Area and welcoming fairgoers to our booth to learn more about Tractor Supply and browse some of the products we offer to support the rural lifestyle.”
Williamson Medical Center also took a chance. According to Nicole Volk, WMC marketing director, supporting the fair goes back to the hospital’s mission of helping the whole community it serves, not only the medical health of the community.
“The fair is an amazing event,” Volk said. “A lot of the community we see are or were people we treated. We get to hear their stories. It’s almost like a reunion. It gives us a sense of community and is good for our morale.”
Every year WMC sets up a booth where technicians take blood pressure readings, test sugar levels for diabetics, provide health education materials on timely topics and build relationships. Some people rely on the booth for their annual blood pressure check.
“This year we’re offering information on thyroid issues, concussion cases and breast health,” Volk said. “When topics are on people’s minds they go to trusted sources to learn preventative methods or what to do.”
WMC also provides a baby care area where parents can change diapers in a clean, quiet location, moms can find privacy to nurse their babies and young families can relax and cool off.
“Our biggest involvement in the fair is EMS (emergency medical service),” Volk said.
EMS staffs 550 man hours during the fair, ensuring people have fun and enjoy the fair safely.
“During the fair, we treat 150-250 people each year in the large first-aid tent at Command Center,” Volk said. “We also have an ambulance there.”
Injuries can be as minor as needing a bandaid, as serious as heat exhaustion and as severe as a cardiac issue. A few years ago, a man was going into cardiac arrest when EMS on a bike found him and treated him. He was fine afterward, Volk added.
Bike medics take 40 hours of classes to learn how to maneuver through crowds, Volk explained. Michael Campbell has been a bike medic since the first fair.
“They even help find lost kids,” Volk said.
Cigna is another key sponsor.
After Cigna began handling county employees’ benefits about 10 years ago, an official approached County Mayor Rogers Anderson to learn about some ways the company could create an impact in the community. Anderson suggested the Williamson County Fair.
With 1,500 employees at its Williamson County headquarters, Cigna jumped at the opportunity to be a fair sponsor in 2011.
A few years later, Cigna became more involved in the fair by supporting the 4-H program and in the community by supporting two local institutions: Nashville Rescue Mission and JourneyPure at the River, a drug and alcohol rehab facility in Murfreesboro. Cigna purchased steers raised by local 4-Hers during the annual livestock auction. The steers would provide a good source of protein in the diets of those served by the two organizations.
As a corporation, the culture of Cigna is to be a good neighbor and give back to the community. Cigna is committed to improving the health, well-being and sense of security for the people and communities it serves.
Other major sponsors include Nissan, Middle Tennessee Electric Membership Corporation and Buerger, Moseley and Carson, PLLC, sponsors since 2005, and Riverbend Nurseries.
From the first Williamson County Fair in 2005 to this year’s 15th fair, partnerships with sponsors make it possible to present a safe, clean, family-friendly fair to match Williamson County’s high standards.
As a nonprofit, the fair board gives back to the community. Parents and students from Centennial High School have directed parking for fair visitors for the past 14 years, and in return, the CHS band boosters have received donations totaling $193,229. For their three years of working at concessions stands, the Page High School band boosters received a donation from the fair board totaling $33,000.
The fair board has paid for more than $179,700 worth of improvements and updates to the Ag Expo Park since 2006.
Since 2013, Pay It Forward Day has produced 38,718 pounds of food for GraceWorks Ministries.