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After 130-plus years, NC fair will change a name some call a reminder of slavery

The city of Winston-Salem announced it will change the name of the Dixie Classic Fair.
The city of Winston-Salem announced it will change the name of the Dixie Classic Fair. The News & Observer

After more than 130 years, a popular fair in North Carolina will change its name to avoid controversy or links to negative historical connection.

City officials in Winston-Salem tweeted Wednesday that the Dixie Classic Fair will be rebranded with a new name.

“We have started a process to change the name of the Dixie Classic Fair,” Winston-Salem officials said on Twitter.

The decision to change the name of the fair came after members of the community took issue with the word Dixie, pointing to its connections to slavery and the Confederacy, WXII reported.

“We have come together as a community ... and we are standing together this time to say that that is a name we are asking you as a council to consider renaming our fair to be more encompassing in embracing us as a community,” the Rev. Sir Walter Mack Jr., the pastor at Union Baptist Church, said at a Winston-Salem City Council meeting, according to the TV station.

Those sentiments made an impact because Assistant City Manager Ben Rowe told members of the Fair Planning Committee that the City Council decided the time has come to change the name, the Winston-Salem Journal reported.

A new name has not been selected.

Public input is being sought into selecting a new name, according to a tweet from city officials. An online survey to rebrand the fair on its core principles is open until June 3, and those suggestions will shape the decision made by Mayor Allen Joines, the City Council, the Public Assembly Facilities Commission and Fair Planning Committee.

Not everyone is supportive of the name change.

“We are putting a lot of energy into finding a new name rather than finding out if a majority wants a new name,” committee member Lisa Eldridge said of the process that could be determined by a June 17 City Council meeting, according to the Winston-Salem Journal.

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Whatever new name is selected, it is not expected to be in place until next year, meaning the 137th running of the fair, from Oct. 4-13, will still be called the Dixie Classic, WXII reported.

Although the fair is more than a century old, the name Dixie Classic dates back to 1956, per WFMY. It was chosen when the Dixie Classic Livestock Exhibition and the Winston-Salem Fair were combined into one event, and “organizers wanted a name that would reflect the fair’s broad regional reach,” the TV station reported.

“The word ‘Dixie’ does bring up connotations of other negative times in history and events, and I would hope that people would be open enough to understand that,” City Council member D.D. Adams said, according to WXII. “Because of where we are in America right now, we need to be more open and inclusive and diverse, but we as Americans need to also understand that there is part of our history that was very oppressive and hurt people.”

Noah Feit is a Real Time reporter with The State focused on breaking news, public safety and trending news. The award-winning journalist has worked for multiple newspapers since starting his career in 1999.