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Wednesday, September 23, 2020, 13:51

Can a county fair be successfully held without a midway operated by an imported carnival?

That is what the front page of the September 2, 1953 issue of the Franklin Press read. No one could have predicted that 67 years later the fair would still be going strong.

In 1953, a group of Macon County residents set out to build a county fair around the county’s rich agriculture and deep farming roots.

Agriculture has been one of the largest industries in North Carolina since before the county was even officially recognized. By the 1820s, about one-third of North Carolina’s population had moved out of state. Many moved west to states like Tennessee or beyond or further south. And by this time farming crops like cotton had depleted soils, making them poor for farming in some areas.

The State Agricultural Society formed in 1818 to help improve farming practices. In 1877 this became the state's Department of Agriculture. The department oversaw farming all over the state to help improve how people farmed. And in 1887 the N.C. College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts began. Today this is N.C. State University in Raleigh. The college used scientific research and education to improve the way people farm. Across the country other state universities did the same thing.

Macon County was just one of many counties across the state to benefit from the state’s Department of Agriculture and their innovative preservation efforts. Today North Carolina is still considered an agricultural state, with Macon County reporting 329,964 acres of Farmland in the county spanning 340 farms.

From small family farms to people who make a living from the land, farming is a big part of the county’s history and economy. Some of Macon County’s most important crops are hay, hemp, and livestock such as cattle.

The February 12, 1953 meeting that first debated starting a county fair included Jaycees and agricultural workers who sought the input of A.Q. Ketner, a field representative of Coble Dairies out of Cherokee County. Mr. Ketner said that with his experience, which included 17 years operating the Cherokee County Fair, it would be impossible for Macon County to have a successful fair without a carnival. “The only way to build a fair is to ignore the criticism of the carnival almost sure to come from preachers and newspapers,” Mr. Ketner was quoted saying in 1953.

 With agriculture being such a large piece of Macon County, J.P. Brady, who served as the Chairman of the Junior Chamber of Commerce Committee ignored Ketner’s advice an presented a plan for the Jaycees to get the ball rolling for the fair and then the local 4-H club would help to build it. He suggested the fair could feature beef and dairy cattle shows, an annual poultry show and an auction. For entertainment, he suggested square dancing and fiddling contests. To help fund the fair, Brady suggested renting booths to Macon County organizations such as PTAs, civic clubs, and church groups.  And that is exactly what happened – and that is exactly what has happened every year since.

Macon County’s first fair was held in September 1953. With the first fair being a success, despite the naysayers, it wasn’t until 1955 that official organization occurred to ensure the fair continue be an annual event. Officers of the early fair association included Robert C. Parker, C.C. Sutton, Mrs. Lawrence Patton, and Edwin T. Williams. Wayne Proffitt served as head of the Agricultural Workers Council, which cooperated with the sponsorship of the fair.

The 1960 Macon County Fair opened at the newly constructed Exhibit Hall and was “crammed to the rafters” with people. The exhibit hall was built through fundraising headed up by the Macon County Fair Association. Businesses and individuals donated and raised the couple of thousand dollars it took to construct.

The exhibit hall, now known as the Wayne Proffitt Agricultural Center has served as the home to the fair every year since 1960. There are four major buildings, A, B, C, and D, are used for all the displays and related events for the Fair. Buildings A and B were built in 1960 and 1961 followed by buildings C and D in 1980.

For as deep as the roots of agriculture run in Macon County, few would argue against the fact that Wayne Proffitt is responsible for their cultivation. For decades there wasn’t a farmer for 100 miles who didn’t know Wayne Proffitt – and you would be hard pressed to find a Franklin High School student who took an agriculture class in the last 70 years who didn’t know him by name. Mr. Proffitt began teaching agriculture at Franklin High School in 1949 and retired from teaching

Born in a rural section of Yancey County, North Carolina, known as Hardscrabble, Wayne Proffitt was one of the three children to Leslie and Vina Proffitt. He was raised on a farm and attended Bald Creek School for both his primary and high school education. Upon graduation from high school he attended Berea College in Berea, Kentucky and graduated with a Bachelor's of Science degree in Agriculture Education. While at Berea, he worked on the school farms to help finance his education.

After leaving Berea College, Mr. Proffitt married his long time sweetheart Kathleen King Proffitt. He taught for the Farmer Veterans Administration in Polk County, North Carolina for six months and then traveled to Macon County, North Carolina to begin his teaching career.

To honor his lifelong commitment to agriculture, Macon County, and raising the next generation of farmers, the exhibit hall was named in his honor in 2007, a little more than a year before his death. Mr. Proffitt, who was a founding member of the 1953 Fair, served on the Board of the Macon County Fair Association up until his death in 2008. Mr. Proffitt spent 55 years as the Fair’s director – always preserving its integrity and authenticity as a solely agricultural fair. Because of Mr. Proffitt’s leadership, the Macon County Fair remains as the last purely agricultural Fair in all of North Carolina.

Can a county fair be successfully held without a midway operated by an imported carnival?


That is what the front page of the September 2, 1953 issue of the Franklin Press read. No one could have predicted that 67 years later the fair would still be going strong.


In 1953, a group of Macon County residents set out to build a county fair around the county’s rich agriculture and deep farming roots.


Agriculture has been one of the largest industries in North Carolina since before the county was even officially recognized. By the 1820s, about one-third of North Carolina’s population had moved out of state. Many moved west to states like Tennessee or beyond or further south. And by this time farming crops like cotton had depleted soils, making them poor for farming in some areas.
The State Agricultural Society formed in 1818 to help improve farming practices. In 1877 this became the state's Department of Agriculture. The department oversaw farming all over the state to help improve how people farmed. And in 1887 the N.C. College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts began. Today this is N.C. State University in Raleigh. The college used scientific research and education to improve the way people farm. Across the country other state universities did the same thing.


Macon County was just one of many counties across the state to benefit from the state’s Department of Agriculture and their innovative preservation efforts. Today North Carolina is still considered an agricultural state, with Macon County reporting 329,964 acres of Farmland in the county spanning 340 farms.
From small family farms to people who make a living from the land, farming is a big part of the county’s history and economy. Some of Macon County’s most important crops are hay, hemp, and livestock such as cattle.


The February 12, 1953 meeting that first debated starting a county fair included Jaycees and agricultural workers who sought the input of A.Q. Ketner, a field representative of Coble Dairies out of Cherokee County. Mr. Ketner said that with his experience, which included 17 years operating the Cherokee County Fair, it would be impossible for Macon County to have a successful fair without a carnival. “The only way to build a fair is to ignore the criticism of the carnival almost sure to come from preachers and newspapers,” Mr. Ketner was quoted saying in 1953.


With agriculture being such a large piece of Macon County, J.P. Brady, who served as the Chairman of the Junior Chamber of Commerce Committee ignored Ketner’s advice an presented a plan for the Jaycees to get the ball rolling for the fair and then the local 4-H club would help to build it. He suggested the fair could feature beef and dairy cattle shows, an annual poultry show, and an auction. For entertainment, he suggested square dancing and fiddling contests. To help fund the fair, Brady suggested renting booths to Macon County organizations such as PTAs, civic clubs, and church groups. And that is exactly what happened – and that is exactly what has happened every year since.


Macon County’s first fair was held in September 1953. With the first fair being a success, despite the naysayers, it wasn’t until 1955 that official organization occurred to ensure the fair continues be an annual event. Officers of the early fair association included Robert C. Parker, C.C. Sutton, Mrs. Lawrence Patton, and Edwin T. Williams. Wayne Proffitt served as head of the Agricultural Workers Council, which cooperated with the sponsorship of the fair.


The 1960 Macon County Fair opened at the newly constructed Exhibit Hall and was “crammed to the rafters” with people. The exhibit hall was built through fundraising headed up by the Macon County Fair Association. Businesses and individuals donated and raised the couple of thousand dollars it took to construct.


The exhibit hall, now known as the Wayne Proffitt Agricultural Center has served as the home to the fair every year since 1960. There are four major buildings, A, B, C, and D, which are used for all the displays and related events for the Fair. Buildings A and B were built in 1960 and 1961 followed by buildings C and D in 1980.


For as deep as the roots of agriculture run in Macon County, few would argue against the fact that Wayne Proffitt is responsible for their cultivation. For decades there wasn’t a farmer for 100 miles who didn’t know Wayne Proffitt – and you would be hard-pressed to find a Franklin High School student who took an agriculture class in the last 70 years who didn’t know him by name. Mr. Proffitt began teaching agriculture at Franklin High School in 1949 and retired from teaching


Born in a rural section of Yancey County, North Carolina, known as Hardscrabble, Wayne Proffitt was one of the three children to Leslie and Vina Proffitt. He was raised on a farm and attended Bald Creek School for both his primary and high school education. Upon graduation from high school, he attended Berea College in Berea, Kentucky, and graduated with a Bachelor's of Science degree in Agriculture Education. While at Berea, he worked on the school farms to help finance his education.
After leaving Berea College, Mr. Proffitt married his long time sweetheart Kathleen King Proffitt. He taught for the Farmer Veterans Administration in Polk County, North Carolina for six months and then traveled to Macon County, North Carolina to begin his teaching career.


To honor his lifelong commitment to agriculture, Macon County, and raising the next generation of farmers, the exhibit hall was named in his honor in 2007, a little more than a year before his death. Mr. Proffitt, who was a founding member of the 1953 Fair, served on the Board of the Macon County Fair Association up until his death in 2008. Mr. Proffitt spent 55 years as the Fair’s director – always preserving its integrity and authenticity as a solely agricultural fair. Because of Mr. Proffitt’s leadership, the Macon County Fair remains as the last purely agricultural Fair in all of North Carolina.


The Macon County Historical Museum has preserved decades of history surrounding Macon County’s farming culture. The museum features annual fair books dating back to the 60s. One of the most priceless collections related to the fair are hundreds of photographs from the Fair, all neatly preserved and featuring 4-H and FFA students during the livestock shows. The photos are part of the collection of items displayed from Mr. Proffitt. Included in the collection is the very camera Mr. Proffitt used for decades to document the annual event.

To see photos of the collection at the Macon County Historical Museum, visit Facebook by clicking here.


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