Tradition main fair attraction

DACULA - In 1979, a young Steve Starling went to the very first Elisha Winn Fair, as his great aunt wanted to show him the place an ancestor participated in Gwinnett's first court hearing.

Thirty years later, the annual fair has become a tradition, but it brings more than just those whose family history is intertwined with the county.

"I like the history thing. He likes the cool cannons when they fire," Larry Kennedy said of bringing his 6-year-old son Zack to the fair every year.

The event, which will continue from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. today, brings more people out to observe one of the county's most historically significant homes than monthly tours bring the rest of the year, said Elaine Roberts.

At $3 tickets for people 12 and older, it is also the Gwinnett Historical Society's biggest fundraiser.

"This is a spot that we like to educate," Roberts said. "A lot of people in Gwinnett County don't know the history."

The Elisha Winn House, located on Dacula Road, was built in 1811 - seven years before the county was formed in 1818. Some meetings to plan the new county were held in the house's parlor, and when Elisha Winn was commissioned as a judge, early sessions of Superior Court were held in his barn.

Shannon Coffey, a member of the society, released a book she wrote about the house at this year's fair. The $20 books can be purchased there today or at the Gwinnett Historical Society in the future.

Starling, who is now vice president of the society, said a lot has changed since the time he came to the first fair as a kid, especially the growth of the surrounding community.

But the camaraderie and excitement are still there.

"It gets better and better every year," he said.

Along with the house, families can talk to Civil War reenactors, like the ones who fire the cannons Zack Kennedy appreciates, meet with a working blacksmith and enjoy food and entertainment.

"Every year we look forward to the festival," said Emma Chambers, a Braselton woman who was at the festival with four generations of her family. "I love it."