Current exhibition

poster for fairs exhibition

Meet Me on the Midway:
Three Centuries of Fairs in North Carolina


July 5 – October 31, 2017

The tradition of the American agricultural fair has its roots in Massachusetts, where Elkanah Watson exhibited a pair of sheep in Berkshire County in 1809 for the benefit of farmers. Other states soon followed, including North Carolina.

Early North Carolina fairs included exhibits to show farmers the latest developments in raising crops and animals. Fairs also provided welcome social interaction and entertainment for rural families. By the 1890s, the carnival midway with its sideshows and amusement rides had become a fair mainstay.

Over the decades, fair entertainment has evolved along with the changing interests of fairgoers. Modern fairs still offer traditional contests for best produce, livestock, and handicrafts – but now they also feature competitions in twenty-first-century skills such as web design. Revived traditional skills such as home beer brewing have also found a home at today’s fairs.

Today, more than forty agricultural fairs happen in North Carolina each year. This exhibition examines the origins of the agricultural fair and the changes that have kept it relevant for more than two hundred years.

For hours, directions, and parking, see Wilson Library’s visit us page.

For information on previous exhibitions, see our past exhibitions page.