Debate Over Dixie Classic Fair Name Change Intensifies

Debate Over Dixie Classic Fair Name Change Intensifies

7:21am May 08, 2019

Hundreds of people turned out to have their say on a proposed name change for the Dixie Classic Fair in Winston-Salem.  

Sam Dixon showed up with a bag of Dixie paper cups.

Sam Dixon wants to keep the Dixie Classic Fair name. KERI BROWN/WFDD

“If you change the name of the Dixie Classic Fair, I will no longer attend, and this is for the planning board, I will do everything that I can to get other people not to attend,” says Dixon.

The Fair Planning Committee also got an earful from residents like Mary Staples.

“I don’t think we should change the name. Dixie to me is the South [and] anybody that lives in the South. And if you’re not proud of the South then go into a different direction,” she says. "You’ve got the East, the West and the North.”

Community members gathered at the fairgrounds for the city's public meeting. KERI BROWN/WFDD

Winston-Salem City Council directed staff to move forward with the process after several residents voiced concerns at a recent council meeting. Some people say “Dixie Classic” evokes images of slavery and the Confederacy.

“My name is Ariana Daniels and my sign says 'Peace and Unity.' I’m for the name change because the name is discriminating. Dixie was a land where African Americans picked cotton, and that is a form of slavery, and the meaning behind the word Dixie has a very negative history. I don’t feel comfortable going to a place where the name is discriminating."

The debate was heated at times, with loud cheers and raised voices in anger, especially when some speakers continued to talk after their one-minute allotment given by the Fair Planning Committee panel. Local pastor Sir Walter Mack says groups were successful in getting the city to remove a Confederate statue in downtown Winston-Salem recently, and he wants the city to move quickly on the name change.

“It is time for Winston-Salem, North Carolina to join the other Dixie states and remove Dixie from our fair,” he says. 

City officials say they’ve received more than 8,000 responses from an online survey about the proposal, with a majority of them in favor of keeping Dixie Classic in the event's name. That information, and other community input will be considered during the process.

Kathleen Garber, who chairs the Fair Planning Committee, says a study is underway to find out how much it could cost to make the name change.

Camilla and Barry Washington from Winston-Salem say they would like to see the fair named changed. KERI BROWN/WFDD

I know city staff is compiling those numbers. I’ve heard everywhere from half a million to a million dollars to rebrand as far as signage, promotional materials, rewriting all of the contracts that have to go out to vendors, entertainment and all of that. So, we will definitely take that into consideration when we make our recommendation.”

City Council is expected to vote on the issue in August.

Some of the names suggested at the meeting include Carolina Classic and the Piedmont Fair.

The new name would go into effect in 2020.

The event is in its 137th year. The Dixie Classic name has been used since 1956.

*Follow WFDD’s Keri Brown on Twitter @kerib_news


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