Now that the city’s decided to change the name of the Dixie Classic Fair, it has to come up with a new name.
Winston-Salem officials say they plan to start by asking members of the city council for their thoughts on a new name, and are also thinking ahead about the tasks that will have to be done to bring about the change.
“There are two pieces of it,” said City Manager Lee Garrity. “There are the hard costs of changing the signs, painting, new letterhead and so on, and there is the question of how much do you want to spend (on marketing) when you rebrand the fair? Would you use the same amount, or more?”
The city council voted 5-2 to change the name of the fair on Monday, after some residents complained in April that the word Dixie carried associations with slavery and segregation.
After an effort to have several citizen-appointed panels steer the name question, the council decided to grab the reins and do the work itself.
In part, the council was avoiding the $60,000 or so that it was estimated as the cost of hiring a consultant. The consultant’s job would have been to figure out a new name using focus groups and other marketing techniques to find a new name that would stand the test of time.
City officials said they’re not willing at this point to estimate the hard costs such as repainting and replacing signs.
The fair’s got plenty of money, though. Assistant City Manager Ben Rowe said that because the fair usually makes money, the Winston-Salem Fairgrounds had built up some $2 million in reserves by June 30.
“The fair generates a net income, and we use that to carry the whole operation,” Rowe said. The Winston-Salem Fairgrounds includes more than the fair, which takes place in the fall. Other events take place in the various buildings throughout the year.
Fair Director Cheryle Hartley said replacing everything with the words Dixie Classic on it could be a lengthy process.
“We would have to determine what signage and what painting would have to be changed,” she said. “We would have to go out and get quotes. I do not have a good estimate and would not feel comfortable giving a number because I don’t know. We have signs, ribbons and banners. We have gate signs. We have neon signs over some of the archways.”
The ribbons the fair uses are replenished from time to time, but name change would require replacing the entire stock.
“We have all kinds of things that have the name on them,” she said. “I have no idea where to even begin (estimating), depending on what kind of name, or logo, what these items would cost. That is what needs to be developed.”
One thing’s for sure: The fair that starts on Oct. 4 and wraps up Oct. 13 will be called the Dixie Classic Fair. City officials made it clear from the start that the fair name couldn’t be changed this year because of the lead time needed for advertising and other preparations.
Garrity said a name change is possible for 2020. When the city was considering the hiring of a consultant, a date of 2021 was mentioned to give the consultant time to do the work.
Bishop Sir Walter Mack and the Rev. Alvin Carlisle, leaders in the name-change effort, told city officials in an Aug. 14 letter that prolonging the name-change would continue divisions in the community. They said leaving Dixie in the fair name could make the fair become a “magnet of hate and attract those who are looking for a place to gather and promote their ideas of hate for the next two years.”
Mack and Carlisle also said that it would be hard for them to support the fair if it kept the name Dixie. They suggested Carolina Classic Fair, Winston-Salem Classic Fair or Twin-City Fair.
Hartley said efforts to promote the next-year’s fair always start immediately after the current year’s fair wraps up.
“We start going to conventions as early as November, and that is where we look for entertainment and musical acts,” she said. The big event is the International Association of Fairs and Expositions convention held in San Antonio, Texas, in December. Then there are meetings of the N.C. Fair Association in January, she said.
Having the new name and timeline for getting things done should be something to have in hand when the time comes to plan for next year’s fair, she said.
“Right now, my card says Dixie Classic Fair Director,” Hartley said.