Will this weekend's State Fair say farewell to the fairgrounds? 

When the Tennessee State Fair launches this Friday night, Sept. 10, at the historic state fairgrounds — as it has for 100 years, skipping only World War II — something even larger than the eight-story Century Wheel will loom over the fair site on Nolensville Road: a question mark. For more than a year, the fairgrounds have been the subject of intense public debate as the city decides the future of the 104-year-old site, built to house its first state fair in 1906.

That debate heated up again last week when the activist Fairgrounds Heritage Preservation Group leaked a report commissioned by Mayor Karl Dean from the Nashville Civic Design Center. Even though the report ultimately recommended little more than economic feasibility studies of the various options, the argument revived yet again: Should the fairgrounds be developed, converted to green space — or kept as year-round home to flea markets, gun shows, stock-car races and other bastions of offbeat Americana?

The hands on the clock are spinning faster than the Tilt-A-Whirl as the fairgrounds nears its Dec. 31 deadline, when all activity at the site is scheduled to cease. So the next week may be your last chance to partake of a 104-year tradition in its current form, as the Tennessee State Fair runs Sept. 10-19 for perhaps the last time at its Nolensville Road home. The strain of ushering an agricultural-themed event into the digital era may show somewhat —what should I choose, the Xbox 360 demonstration or the Celebrity Cow Milking with Lelan Statom? —but the mix of live music, rides, acrobats, stunts, food competitions and assorted novelties (a demolition derby! deep-fried Goo-Goos!) should prove irresistible to anyone harboring a dog-eared copy of Charlotte's Web. Gate admission is $8; for more information, see www.tennesseestatefair.org.


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