The nine-member commission voted to explore the interest of all 95 counties in playing the event, which has seen a decline in attendance in recent years and has fallen behind county fairs in attendance, including the Wilson County Fair.
“This is a starting point for the conversation about the future of the Tennessee State Fair. There are only two years left under the current agreement and we know there are questions about the vision for the fairgrounds in Nashville. Part of our role is to help determine if there is a consensus among stakeholders about what that future of the fair might look like,” said Jai Templeton, Tennessee Department of Agriculture commissioner.
In 2015, the fair saw about 100,000 guests, while the Wilson and Williamson county fairs boasted about 500,000 and 200,000 guests, respectively.
The state fair has been in Nashville since 1855 and held at the 117-acre Nashville Fairgrounds since 1906.
A recent report from Conventions, Sports and Leisure International, a convention consulting firm, explored the possibility of having the state fair at Great Stage Park, home of the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival. However, the firm said the location was not ideal for the state fair and highlighted other possible options in the state.
Highlighted locations included Agricenter International in Memphis, Williamson County Ag Expo Park, Tennessee Livestock Center and Tennessee Miller Coliseum in Murfreesboro, Wilson County Fairgrounds, Clasonic Arena in Shelbyville and Tennessee ValleyFair at Chilhowee in Knoxville.
The Wilson County Fair far exceeded other locations in number of attendees and had the highest number of residents in a 60-minute drive with more than 1.7 million. The report also highlighted the Wilson County Expo Center and various event facilities and advantages for the James E. Ward Agricultural Center, although a “limited destination appeal” was noted as a disadvantage for the location.
According to the report, the Tennessee State Fair ranked 30th in the nation in state fair attendance in 2015.
The commission plans to submit a proposal to Gov. Bill Haslam by the end of the year with possible relocation in 2019.