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Fair back in town

The fair is back in town, and what memories are rekindled when fairgoers make that annual trek to the fairgrounds for one fun-packed week each fall. 

For 98 years the Wilkins family operated the Halifax County Fair in three locations…in downtown South Boston, at the “old fairgrounds” which is the current site of Fairmont Apartments and at its present site behind the South Boston Speedway.

W.W. Wilkins Sr. was the founder of the fair, and he passed his legacy to sons Banks, Bailey and Buck in 1955.  Over the past years Buck Wilkins was the driving force behind the fair until his death in February 2004.  

The responsibilities and duties then fell to Buck’s wife Jenny, along with daughters Paige Powell and husband Les, and Sue Bales and husband C.J.  And they made Buck proud with their operation of the fair.

Then four years ago the county purchased the fairground continuing the tradition each fall.

For the past two years, the county has delegated fair responsibilities to Del. James Edmunds II who has directed and operated the fair with the help of some of Halifax’s finest including Bonita Nelson and Shelia Bradley, and this year Mallory Lawter is serving as the fair’s general manager.

(Goodness, where have the years gone…we remember when Mallory was born.)

But no matter how old you get, everyone loves the fair. We can remember back to our younger days and those exciting nights at the fair.  

Remember when you couldn’t sleep the night before fair day because you were so excited.  

We fidgeted in our seats at school with thoughts of cotton candy and candy apples occupying our brains until the bell sounded, and we bolted out the doors, squealing with excitement.  

And back in those days, schools would pass out special coupons that gave students a discount to get into the fair.

When we finally got through the gates onto the fairground, we could hardly wait to start making our rounds, looking for friends on that midway loop.

Then off to buy our tickets to every attraction we dared ride.

Remember when you were old enough to get on the Scrambler, the Tilt-A-Whirl, the Octopus or the Roundup?  And then when you got a little older and graduated to the Zipper and Skydiver…what memories.  

We recall year after year playing games along the midway, winning stuffed animals and other trinkets that you spent the rest of the night lugging around the midway like a prized status symbol.

As a little girl too young to wander off by myself, I recall my parents especially enjoying strolling through the exhibit hall to see who won blue ribbons and to “ooh” and “ahh” at the crafts and handiwork, while my sister and I hurried them along so we could get to the fun stuff.  Those were the earliest of my fair memories when we were eager to go have some fun, spend some money and ride something.  

And what about the grandstand shows!  Where else could you see the stars of Nashville without shelling out a huge sum of money. Billy Ray Cyrus, Garth Brooks, Ricky Van Shelton, Marie Osmond, Marty Stuart, Ronnie McDowell, Jerry Reed and Jeannie C. Riley have all taken the stage of the grandstand at the Halifax County Fair. 

Other big names, such as the Platters, Lester Flatt, Bill Monroe, Ricky Skaggs, Grandpa Jones, Boxcar Willie, Susan Raye, Percy Sledge, Tom T. Hall, Tom Wopat and Jerry Clower also have entertained local fair crowds.

We are fortunate to have a county fair each year, and hopefully the tradition will continue for generations to come.