By LYDIA BERGLAR
In just over a month, Jenkins Park will transform into a music, food, and contest-filled fairground for the annual 1945 Fair. Dade County’s Independence Day celebration continues to grow each year, bringing in guests from beyond Dade County who are looking for activities on July 4.
Nathan Wooten, the fair’s founder and coordinator, shared several pre-event details. In his words, “Right now, we’re down to the final details. We’re sending out vendor packets this week. On July 3, we’ll flip Jenkins Park upside down.”
Parking is one of the largest challenges for the event. Wooten reported that parking will be at the flea market (the empty lot just north of CVS), Citizens Bank and Trust, the town square, the court facility, Ingles, and near Jenkins Park at Railway Lane. Buses will run between these locations throughout the day to transport people to the fairgrounds as needed.
Wooten also explained that handicap parking will be available at both the Jenkins Pool and the Allstate building. Golf carts will transport people to the fairgrounds as needed from these lots.
He added that keeping people cool and hydrated is a top priority. A first-aid station and EMTs will be on hand.
So far, 68 vendors have signed up for the fair – an increase from 2022’s 50 vendors. Part of the logistical planning is figuring out where to fit all the vendors. Wooten is excited about the variety of food vendors which have been so popular in previous years that they’ve sold out by late afternoon. Wooten said, “Basically I’ve said to all of them, ‘Bring all you’ve got.’”
Food offerings will include tacos, smoked turkey legs, cheesesteak, homemade ice cream, snow cones, funnel cakes, and frozen pickles. While most of these trucks are coming from Chattanooga, the furthest one is coming from Atlanta to serve wings and fries.
Two things that are near and dear to Dade Countians’ hearts – food and competition – come together in the form of eating contests. This year’s fair will have watermelon eating, hot dog eating, and Krystal eating contests.
In keeping with the competitive spirit, there will also be a frozen t-shirt contest and a hairy leg contest. “We’ve opened the hairy leg contest up to the ladies,” said Wooten. “Last year, I had a lady ask me, ‘Why can’t women get in that?’ I said okay.”
The Dade Cup softball tournament has already filled up with six teams, but there is still room in the cornhole tournament and the Redneck Games. This year’s cornhole tournament added an advanced competition, organized by the Northeast Alabama Cornhole Association.
Of the Redneck Games, Wooten said, “You just have to come see what that’s about. I’ll just say, we’re in search of used toilet seats.”
Sign up for all competitions and contests at www.1945fair.com.
As noted in the Jan. 18 issue of the Sentinel, the music lineup is Southwind Bluegrass performing at 12:30, Solt performing at 2, Mechele Berry performing at 3:30, Chris Shupe performing at 5:30, and finally, the headliner Hunter Girl takes the stage at 7:30. A guitar signed by Hunter Girl will be in the silent auction.
Wooten knows all of the local musicians, but to book Hunterg Girl, he used an agency. He said, “I tried to get Alabama, but they were way too expensive.”
Other hot-ticket items in the silent auction are free rounds of golf at McLemore Club and a basket called “Touch of Dade.” Wooten explained, “The basket has gift certificates from restaurants in Trenton, a weekend stay at a cabin in Rising Fawn, tandem flights from the hangliding park, some stuff from Uncle Lars, just a little bit of everything about Dade County.”
Wooten reminds families to bring lawn chairs or blankets if they would like to set up a place to sit for the day, and he added, “Kids can bring swimsuits. The swimming pool will be open for free, and we’ll have a water slide, foam pit, and pony rides.”
As the event has grown over the years, the planning team has grown with it. Wooten said, “We’ve got a good crew of about 15 people. They all have their assignments, and they just do it. The first year there was a team of two.”
Admission to the fair is free. Wooten said, “The ultimate goal is to keep it free admission. People have told me, ‘You should charge for parking or at the gate,’ but that’s not how it goes. The business community has been very supportive. Our budget this year is around $30,000. I think the first year was $1,000. It seems to be something everybody’s got behind.”
For details about the events mentioned here and all other activities, visit www.1945fair.com.