Fair

The Ferris wheel glows in the night sky.

A Winston-Salem committee voted 3-1 Tuesday afternoon to recommend changing the name of the annual fair to Carolina Classic Fair, although the full council must act on the name before it takes effect for the 2020 season.

The split vote on the city's general government committee guarantees a debate on Monday when the issue comes before the full council.

A council member supporting the Carolina Classic name said it blended both fair names from the era when fairs were segregated.

Dixie Classic was the fair name during segregation and after it ended. Carolina Fair was one of the last names of the fair that most black residents attended.

John Larson, the council member for South Ward, and not a member of the committee, made a hard plea for Piedmont to be part of the fair name.

West Ward Council Member Robert Clark, who made the motion to approve the Carolina Classic name, said he had given a lot of thought to the name, and that a name focusing only on the city was too narrow.

Southwest Ward Council Member Dan Besse made the argument that Carolina Classic was a fitting name that recognizes "the shared diversity of the community."

It was common for black residents to lose institutional names when segregation ended, Besse said.

The annual fair has been called the Dixie Classic since the mid-1950s, but the city council decided this summer to change the name. In April, a group of citizens had argued that the name Dixie retains too many connotations with slavery and the Old South.

When it came time to vote during committee on Tuesday, Besse, Clark and North Ward Council Member D.D. Adams voted in favor of Carolina Classic.

Scippio voted against the motion, but did not explain her vote during the meeting.

Larson argued that the name Carolina was too generic:

"This is a regional fair," Larson said. "The idea of a distinctive name accepted throughout the area is the name Piedmont. It has been around quite awhile. It is a unique term, descriptive of our natural area, and it is something that we can be proud of."

Council Member Jeff MacIntosh, another non-member of the committee sitting in, suggested that the name Carolina might create the wrong impression.

"When I hear Carolina, I think Chapel Hill and I think blue," MacIntosh said. The name Piedmont evokes former institutions such as Piedmont Airlines, he said.

Besse responded that the word Piedmont sounds too generic, and said any marketing concerns relating to UNC Chapel Hill can be avoided by making sure that "sky blue" is not an important part of branding.

While the fair name debate has been a hot one both in meetings and on social media, on Tuesday the general committee meeting drew few visitors other than a corps of television cameras.

City Manager Lee Garrity was saying last week that a council decision was needed soon to allow planning for the 2020 fair to go forward.

"We need a name by November so that we can begin the process," Garrity said, nothing that fair personnel need the new name so that they can submit the information to groups that hold trade shows for fair promoters in late 2019 and early 2020.

Winston-Salem officials estimate that one-time costs for the new name clock in at just shy of $100,000, although that doesn't include some marketing and supply costs that are already in the fair's operating budget.

The Winston-Salem City Council voted on Aug. 19 to change the name of the fair following a months-long controversy, but did not at that time pick a new name.

Citizens came to a city council committee meeting last spring asking for a name change, saying that the world Dixie was a reminder of the Old South of slavery and segregation.

The 2020 fair takes place Oct. 2-11, but fair planners need to start this fall because of upcoming trade shows and other gatherings that fair planners attend to scope out the attractions for the coming year.

Prior to Tuesday's meeting of the city's general government committee, city officials had submitted a list of possible names from the many suggestions made.

The list included regional names like Blue Ridge Foothills Fair, Piedmont Regional Fair and Northwest North Carolina Fair.

A lot of the suggestions keep the word Classic in the fair name: Yadkin Valley Classic, Carolina Classic, Triad Classic and Southern Classic, for example.

Although city staffers at one point suggested Twin City Classic for a fair name, that idea got shot down for being too limited in scope. People said they wanted a name that suggested a bigger area than just Winston-Salem.

That objection probably also dooms names such as Winston Classic Fair, Forsyth Family Fair or Camel City Fair.

Then there were the suggestions that might be considered offbeat: Maya Angelou Fair, SweetTea Classic Fair, Orange Rock Fair or Trails in the Sand Fair.

City officials said the fair has a marketing budget of $230,000 and a supplies budget of $65,000 already in place that can be used for some of the costs of transitioning to a new name.

The one-time costs include $30,000 to repaint the grandstand and other locations with the new name and logo, $12,000 to replace signs at two gates, and a variety of miscellaneous costs that include ticket booth coverings, street signs to direct traffic, banners and other items. The total one-time costs are estimated at $97,000.

City officials said the marketing and supplies budgets can cover things that are done every year anyway, such as printing calendars, prize booklets, prize ribbons and other things.

The fairgrounds cash reserve totals $2.06 million, as the fair is one of the city's money-making enterprises.

City officials say the timetable provides for the new name and logo to be released in November, with updates to social media and redirecting website traffic from the site name that makes reference to the current fair name.

The new fair name would at the same time be submitted to state and national fair publications and vendors.

The website for vendor registration would be released in February, but March would be the busiest name-change month: Signs and other marketing materials would be changed, and billboard and digital media campaigns would start to promote the fair. Letters would be sent to key stakeholders.

People who enter competitions would be able to start using the new website in July. A full website rollout would take place in August, along with traditional advertising.

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wyoung@wsjournal.com

336-727-7369

@wyoungWSJ

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