How the Williamson County Fair Continues to Impact the Community

Abby Berny

The 14th Annual Williamson County Fair promised “Nine Days of Fun,” and it certainly delivered: a record-setting crowd enjoyed the attractions, rides, food, and music. But the true impact of the Fair will still be felt this fall. Thousands of middle Tennesseans in need will be eating healthy, nutritious meals as a result of the Fair’s “Pay it Forward” night and 4-H Livestock Auction.

“One large part of our mission as a Fair Board is to celebrate the importance of agriculture to our legacy as a county, past and future. Because of farmers, we are able to eat,” said Williamson County Fair Board Chairman Rogers Anderson. “Thanks to the generosity of our fairgoers, we were able to help ensure many hungry people are able to eat this fall.”

In partnership with the Franklin non-profit Graceworks, “Pay it Forward” night at the Fair offers attendees free admission in exchange for four canned goods, food items or other supplies from Graceworks’ Critical Needs list. This year, the amount of donations was nearly doubled from the 2017 Fair, bringing in 10,862 pounds for food-insecure Williamson Countians. The previous “Pay it Forward” night record was set in 2013, with 6,280 pounds.

As part of the Fair’s 4-H Livestock Auction, students from the Williamson County 4-H program offer goats, lambs and steers they raised throughout the year for purchase by members of the community. Funds generated from the sales go directly to the students, who use the money to go to college, raise more livestock or start a business.

This year, Fair sponsor Cigna HealthCare teamed up with local Cigna Account Executive Tim Cullen and his wife, Heather, to make a donation from the livestock sale to the Nashville Rescue Mission and Room in the Inn to help feed the hungry. Cigna is committed to improving the health, well being and sense of security for the people and communities they serve, and food insecurity impact many in Middle Tennessee.

One of the young farmers is 12-year-old Abby Berny, who watched her older brother and sister participate in the 4-H auction and has personally donated 12,000 eggs to Room in the Inn. It was her first year to raise a steer, and she experienced the same range of emotions as others.

“We get them at eight months old and work with them every day, and they have to warm up to you, but we feed them three times a day to give a complete ration and make sure they are healthy,” Berny said. “You do care about them, and you have to keep their stress level low so they can reach their potential. We learn about the value of life, and know that this steer is feeding people. It doesn’t just help you make money or help a charity, but it teaches you how to treat people and animals.”

The three steers donated by CIGNA and the Cullen family yielded approximately 1,500 pounds of meat for the Nashville Rescue Mission and Room in the Inn, respectively, which together feed hundreds of homeless and hungry people three meals a day.

Melanie Barnett, community development director at Room in the Inn, said they often have to get creative with food resources, working with what they have to provide a well-balanced meal for up to 300 people.
“When we got the processed meat delivered from the Fair’s 4-H Livestock Sale, it was a little overwhelming. This meat is choice and prime beef,” Barnett said. “This is not what people typically eat at homeless shelters, and our residents and clients really appreciate that. We do table service, where we serve the men and women, and that’s intentional – we feed the body and the soul. 

“The whole process of how the animals are raised, the heart and effort the kids put in and the families invest, and then this blessing of providing for people in need… there is significant value to this donation for everyone involved.”

To get involved with planning for the 15th Annual Williamson County Fair, go to