City Council approves renaming of Dixie Classic Fair

During a meeting on Monday, Aug. 19 the Winston-Salem City Council voted to rename the Dixie Classic Fair.

City Council approves renaming of Dixie Classic Fair
August 20
08:57 2019

With the city chamber filled with residents for and against the resolution, the Winston-Salem City Council voted on Monday night to change the name of the Dixie Classic Fair.

Talks about the name change were reignited earlier this year when a group of residents led by Bishop Sir Walter Mack, called for the term “Dixie” to be immediately removed from the name of the city’s fair.

Mack, who is the senior pastor at Union Baptist Church, and others said the term was derogatory because of its connection to slavery and white supremacy. Mack and more than 20 other local pastors, and ministers also held a press conference to call for the name change.

After the push for the change was made public, thousands of people, reached out to fair and city officials to let it be known how they felt.

In early May, hundreds of people showed up to a public forum held at the Winston-Salem Fairgrounds and according to city officials they have received 11,000 emails, and other comments directly related to the name change.

“Dixie” has been associated with the local fair since the mid 1950s when the name was changed to include the term. At that time the city of Winston-Salem had two fairs, the Dixie Classic Fair, for whites, and the Carolina Fair for blacks.  When the Dixie Classic Fair was integrated, the Carolina Fair lost support and eventually disbanded. When the city took over  the Dixie Classic Fair years later, the name stayed.

Before the vote on Monday, Aug. 19 council members had the opportunity to express their feelings on the matter and explain their vote.

Winston-Salem native and representative for the North Ward, where the annual fair is held, Denise “D.D.” Adams, said she remembers when she wasn’t allowed to go to the Dixie Classic Fair because of the color of her skin.

She said now it’s her responsibility to stand up for what’s right.

“When it’s all said and done like Martin Luther King said I have to know that I stood on the right side of what’s right, and just. There are so many fairs in this state and nobody grabbed up Dixie. Whether it was Raleigh, Greensboro, Charlotte or Durham. And Winston-Salem didn’t either,” Adams said. “…One person with their signature decided to change the history of this city. We all know what was going on in this city in 1956.”

Councilmember James Taylor who is publisher of The Chronicle, let the council and public know that he would be exercising his right to abstain. According to Mayor Allen Joines ‘abstain’ votes are counted as ‘Yes’.

Taylor, who mentioned the need for a name change during a committee meeting in 2015, said although he stands by his original thoughts and views, he gave his word that he would not move forward with pushing for a name change. He said after his initial call for the name change, he received countless emails and calls from constituents asking him to drop the matter and few supporters. Later that year Taylor released a statement saying he would no longer pursue the name change.

“I do stand behind my comments I made in 2015 supporting the name change but I also stand by my word which I think is important to the constituents,” Taylor continued. “I stand by my promise to the constituents that I would not pursue this further. Even though I know times change and information changes my word is important to me.”

Councilmember Dan Besse said he saw no compelling reason to keep the name. He said “…The name itself Dixie, has no special connection to Winston-Salem or Forsyth County.”

John Larson, who represents the South Ward, was one of two councilmembers in attendance to vote ‘No’ on the name change. Larson mentioned the majority of the responses received were against the change.

“…86 percent said that they shouldn’t change the name at all,” Larson noted.

“We can  quibble certainty over whether those people were in fact citizens of Winston-Salem or Forsyth County, that’s certainty something to think about, but the point was they felt some investment or some value in the fair itself. Sadly this referendum seems to hinge on a single word rather than the modern rebranding of a fair that could possibly use  a serious makeover after 60 years of use. ”

After the resolution to rename the fair was approved, the council voted on a separate resolution directing city staff to develop a process to change the name. With the 2019 fair just a few weeks away, the earliest the change could  happen would be 2020 or 2021.

During the public comment portion of the meeting several people shared there thoughts on the councils’ decision.

Kris McCann, who is against the name change, thanked Larson and Councilmember Jeff MacIntosh for their vote. McCann said it takes guts to stand up against a group of people who don’t want to do whats’s right. He said words can’t even begin to describe his disguise with the city council.

“…The majority of the people spoke and they spoke loud and clear and you just won’t listen. I just don’t understand.” McCann said

Other people applauded the council for there decision. Kia Hood-Scott who is a member of Union Baptist Church said, “I thank the council for making the right choice.”

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Tevin Stinson

Tevin Stinson

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