The Chowan County Fair was organized in the Spring and
Summer of 1947. It was known as the American
Legion Fair for a number of years. The first fair
was held on the latter days of 1947 at the old National
Guard Armory (now the Edenton-Chowan Recreation Center).
The armory was used as an exhibit building and the
midway "Virginia Greater Shows" was set up in the rear
of the armory. The first fair officials were
Jordan Yates, W. (Monk) Mills, Willis McClenny, and
Wesley Chesson as secretary and treasurer. Legion
members served as committee members and
workers of the
fair. The Chowan Agriculture Extension Service and
School system were heavily involved and has continued to
be to the present day.
The fair continued to be held
at the armory until we began to have problems with the
Town of Edenton in 1949 and 1950 over trash clean-up
after the fair. The American Legion began to look
for a farm to establish a Legion home and Fairgrounds.
The Hardison Farm on US 17 South became available and
was purchased by the Legion in 1950. The fair was
held at the new property in 1951, using tents to house
the exhibits. The following year1952 a
fifty-by-one hundred foot concrete block building on a
cement floor with rest rooms was constructed to serve as
a Legion home and a fair exhibit building.
Monk mills, Jordan Yates, Willis McClenny and Roy
Leary were the fair officials when we made the move to
the Hardison Farm on US 17. The fair began to grow
little by little, but we had problems with carnivals
that had Girl Shows and gambling on the midway.
Being a small fair and having to book small midways that
carried these vices at that day and time was
unavoidable. The Legion hung in there trying to
improve the fair through better exhibits and cleaner
midways. The fair continued to grow in attendance,
and with the continued growth we could book larger and
In 1954 Monk Mills was manager of the fair, and
William "Bill" Perry was president of the fair.
Monk Mills became ill during the week of the fair and
Bill Perry took over to replace Mills who was unable to
return due to heart problems. In June 1955 William
A. "Bill" Perry was elected Fair manager and held the
position of Fair President or Fair Manager until the
close of the 1992 fair; a total of 38 years of fair
management. Perry remained on the fair board as
President Emeritus. EC Toppin became President an
Manager of the Chowan County Fair.
From the beginning, the American Legion set up the
organization of the fair as follows. The Post
Commander served as the President of the Fair. The
Finance Officer of the Legion also served as Treasurer
of the Fair, and the Fair Manager position was appointed
to someone who was experienced and well-qualified to run
the Fair. The American Legion found this type of
organization was not working well. A large number
of Post Commanders had no experience in operating a
fair, and had no desire to head up the Fair.
In the 1970's the Fair was incorporated as a separate
organization. The name of the fair was changed to
the Chowan County Fair. The Fair was sponsored by,
and accountable to, the American Legion. The new
fair organization elected its officers and fair board
members. The Legion required three fourths of the
board members to be members of the American Legion.
This reorganization gave the Fair stability and works
During the seventies the Fair grew out of the one
exhibit building. The Fair bought three old mobile
home house trailers, ripped the guts out, and made them
into exhibit trailers. This expansion gave us some
breathing room to display a larger number of exhibits.
The Fair continued to grow in size and attendance
over the years. In 1985 the old barn was renovated
to what is now called THE SHOW BARN. This SHOW
BARN was used to present livestock shows, beauty
pageants, entertainment, and community use. The
SHOW BARN proved to be a big asset to the Fair.
The Fair continued to grow, and we soon found
ourselves in need of more room to expand the exhibits.
Parking space was also beginning to be critical fo Fair
patrons. To solve the parking problem, the Fair
made a deal with the Griffin family who owned the farm
to the rear and back side of the American Legion.
In this arrangement the Legion secured ten acres of land
for parking. In 1995 the American Legion purchased
the Griffin Farm, which gave the American Legion and the
Chowan County fair an additional fifty-four acres of
land to use for expansion.
In 1989 a new sixty by one hundred foot metal exhibit
building was constructed to house exhibits and use for
office space. The Fair now has two large exhibit
buildings. These two buildings are continually
being used for community functions, when not being used
during Fair Week.
EC Toppin became Fair Manager and President of the
Fair after the 1992 Fair. The Chowan County Fair
was reorganized to a President-Manager with two
Vice-Presidents, Secretary, Treasurer, and a
twelve-member Board. This new organization seems
to be working well. It should be mentioned at this
time that Earl White has served as Fair Treasurer from
the 1960's until the present time. He has done a
great job for many years.
Over the years the Fair has grown from a nine or ten
ride fair to a twenty-five ride fair. Many
different carnivals and shows have played at the Chowan
County fair. The Fair has won many state awards in
the last twenty years, and is well known throughout the
state as an excellent fair. The Chowan County Fair
has provided two State Presidents of the NC Agricultural
Fair Association: William A. "Bill" Perry, and EC
Toppin. Francis Earl White also served a term on
the State association.
Today the Fair presents good clean midways, excellent
exhibits, and shows for the entire family. The
Chowan County Fair received the Most Improved Fair in
its Category in 1996.
Since 1997, the Chowan County Fair has continued to
grow, both in attendance and in entries, until in 1998
it became the Chowan County Regional Fair. By
going regional and inviting the residents of the eleven
counties surrounding Chowan County to become part of the
fair, entries have increased 30% and attendance has
grown to more than double the population of Chowan
County, to over 27,000 in 2007.
The Fair Board has continued to be active in the
North Carolina Association of Agricultural Fairs (NCAOAF).
Board members have regularly attended the annual
Convention and served on various committees of the
NCOAOF. The Chowan County Regional Fair recently
had another of its board members serve nine years on the
Board of Directors of the NCOAOF, including one term as
President. This is the fourth Chowan Board member
to serve on the Association's Board and the third to
serve as President.
The Chowan County Regional Fair has continued to win
awards such as the Youth Award, the Agricultural Award,
the Media Award (two years in a row), and in 2007, the
prestigious Image Award for best medium-size fair in