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State funding to bolster cash-strapped county fairs

Each county fair will get $10,000. It comes after a big investment in the state fair's move from Nashville to Wilson County.

TENNESSEE, USA — Tennessee is giving out more than $500,000 to help struggling county fairs survive.

Precautions against COVID-19 meant no Appalachian Fair in August, no crowd, and the loss of more than $350,000.

“It's just a huge letdown to not be able to have that fair and see people come out and have a good time,” fair manager Phil Booher said.

Rep. Rebecca Alexander pushed for funds.

“The fairs that closed were barely hanging on,” Rep. Alexander said. “The ones that opened were really struggling because they didn't have the crowds.”

Each county fair will get $10,000. It comes after a big investment in the state fair's move from Nashville to Wilson County.

“I grew up going to fairs and showing cattle across the state, and I know how important it is for the county fairs to be strong if you're going to have a great state fair,” Alexander said.

Booher said, “Fairs do promote agriculture to people who don't understand where their food comes from or to come out and get to see animals. Some kids never get to see animals.”

Now Booher hopes Alexander can get recurring funds for cash-strapped fairs long term. That's already being done in some states.

The money will be distributed through the state fair association and will not require individual fairs to sign-up.