WEST ASHEVILLE — E.W. Pearson might have raised his eyebrows at the flax and bran tostadas or the apple chai cake being sold on the grounds of the Burton Street Community Center on Saturday afternoon.
But the man who founded this West Asheville neighborhood almost 100 years ago would surely have been delighted to see the spirit of his community continuing with the revival of the Burton Street Agriculture Fair & Farmer’s Jubilee.
Pearson hosted the first Western North Carolina and District Colored Agricultural Fair and Farmer’s Jubilee in 1913. It was a huge event that continued annually for more than 30 years and drew tens of thousands of participants, both black and white, to celebrate the fall harvest.
While the apples in the early 20th century were most likely sold by the bushel from the backs of farmer’s wagons rather than in cakes laced with chai, the organizers of this modern agriculture fair have worked hard to keep the flavor of the original event.
“We’ve got blue ribbons waiting to hand out,” said fair organizer Vivian Conley, pointing to the contest sign-up sheet with categories such as best-tasting tomato, biggest and smallest vegetable, best apple pie, best pound cake, best tomato pie, best cupcake or muffin, and ugliest vegetable.
There were horseshoe, basketball and card tournaments happening on the grounds against a backdrop of West African dance, gospel music and other live entertainment. Exuberant children seemed to enjoy the old-fashioned beanbag toss as much as the modern-day bouncy houses under a stand of shade trees, taking breaks for ice cream and fresh lemonade.
Throughout the day, there was an aura of history surrounding the festivities, with neighbors evoking the storied career of Pearson, a visionary who also started many businesses around Burton Street, founded the Asheville chapter of the NAACP and organized Asheville’s first black professional baseball team, The Asheville Royal Giants.Read the full article