Cameron Lutz with the Senior and Grand Champion Jersey Female, October 1999. Photo courtesy Cleveland County Fair
Cleveland County Fair
The Cleveland County Fair, held in Shelby,
North Carolina, will celebrate its 76th year in 2000. The
brainchild of the Shelby Kiwanis Club in 1923, the fair has
grown every year since then in size, number of activities, and
Dr. J.S. Dorton managed the fair through its 38th
year until his death in 1961. Through the Fair, "Doc" encouraged
the breeding of purebred cattle and swine. He felt the need for
improving seed crops as well, and saw a future in raising a better
staple cotton and more cotton per acre. When the WPA-constructed
two-story rock exhibit building and grandstand burned on Christmas
Eve 1951, Doc immediately planned a new grandstand.
Earliest fairs brought the Rockettes straight from
New York City to the county fairgrounds. The beauties stayed in
local homes. Girlie shows "for adults only" have faded from the
scene. But during the early years, everybody went to the fair early
and stayed 'til closing time which was signaled at 10 p.m. by
dazzling fireworks. As the age of television, it became more
difficult to please fairgoers. Diversity in entertainment was the
answer. During the 50s, grandstand shows featured demolition
derbys, stock car races, Indianapolis speedway racing, harness
racing, rodeos and variety shows to appeal to the popular
The Cleveland County Fair is a showcase of Americana.
True to its roots, it sports carnival rides, a grandstand, a
livestock barn and exhibits in agriculture, education, industry,
art, and history. Having grown from a five-day event in 1924 to a
ten-day show today, the 1990s saw a record-breaking attendance of
Documentation includes a video of the 1998 Cleveland
County Fair, color snapshots, two 8 x 10 photographs, a two-page
history of the fair, and a souvenir program from the 1999
Originally submitted by: Sue Myrick, Representative (9th District).
The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.