History Of Our North Wilkesboro Rotary Fairgrounds

In the early 1970's, Rotarians Gene Foster and Paul Marley made arrangements with North Wilkesboro Speedway co-owner Enoch Staley to hold an agricultural fair at the speedway. Rotary Club members had parked cars for the races for many years and were allowed to stay for the race at no cost. For their efforts, pay for parking started at $500 per race and in 1995 had grown to $1,500 for each event. In addition, the track had provided the club with a private, air conditioned booth at the same time an adjoining booth was built for race sponsor Holly Farms (now Tyson Foods).

With a sense of community spirit, the club "enjoyed" that arrangement, working on race day from 6:00 AM until the end of each event. Staley (and his young son Michael) continued that arrangement until the final NASCAR race was held on September 29, 1996. Now grown, Mike Staley has been a Rotarian since November, 1995 and is currently Chairman of the Fair Committee.

During this period, improvements were being made to the track including new infield structures. Space available for the annual fair decreased year by year. As a result, the club realized the need for additional fairground space and negotiated with the VFW and American Legion to use the VFW park and baseball fields as a fair site.

Over a four year period, the site costs proved burdensome and it became increasingly difficult to meet the demands and requirements of the site owners. During the last fair event staged at VFW Park and with a sense of frustration, Rotarian Archie Nichols made the statement "if the club wants to have a fair next year, it will have to be somewhere else for me to be a involved!"

In late 1997, Archie Nichols, Robert Greene and Bob Hatfield proposed that the club locate, rent, and maybe consider for purchase another fair venue. Many in the club questioned that move. However, a search for the property commenced. The original grass airport located in the West Park area of North Wilkesboro was thought to be ideal for the purpose.

At that time, the property belonged to the three sons of Worth Tomlinson. Negotiations resulted in the owners setting a price. The club offered to pay half the price in cash and issue a tax letter for the remainder of the amount. Two of the three owners agreed, one declined. With help from Rotarian Betty Hicks, Nan, the widow of Worth Tomlinson, purchased the property from her three sons and made the propoerty availale to the North Wilkesboro Rotary Scholarship Foundation in return for cash and a letter of donation.

The newly acquired property was not pretty. Two depressions in the landscape collected water, forming wet areas best described as "bogs". Tons of broken bricks and hunks of concrete the size of automobiles remained from a brick industry formerly located on site. The original buildings were in disrepair from neglect and flooding from the Yadkin River and Reddies Creek

The club installed drainage and filled the depressions with hundreds of loads of dirt. A few of the buildings were renewed with siding compliments of Abitibi Siding. A concrete, elevated floor was poured to accommodate restrooms. Those buildings found to be useable were renovated and properly rewired to provide electrical service for the events. Grass was sown and the entire property fenced.

To a great degree, most of the labor, and much of the materials were donated by club members. The first fair on the new North Wilkesboro Rotary Fairgrounds was held in 1998. That year, midway companies reimbursed the club for half of the cost of paving.

For the past 10 years, the fairground property has been used by different organizations to host fund raising events. Rent from those events benefited the club and therefore the community through scholarships and club donations to groups and individuals.

Since 1998, many hours have been spent, and continue to be donated by the North Wilkesboro Rotary Club membership. Their tireless efforts have provided the community with a facility that is a credit to the club. The club is fortunate to have a membership whose time and talents have made the property a worthy club asset.

The Wilkes County Agricultural Fair is a proud member of the North Carolina Association of Agricultural Fairs. Visit ncagfairs.org for more information on the variety of agricultural fairs in our state.
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