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Casey Abrams performs on the last day of the fair.
In between filling up on deep-fried Oreos, funnel cakes and country-rock music, visit the Farm Bureau Center to learn about agriculture and see some oversized gourds.
The new State Fair of Virginia starts at the Meadow Event Park in Caroline County tomorrow.
And the big question is: Will it be the same or different?
According to fair officials, the Sept. 28-Oct. 7 event will be both.
"The fair will be both the same and different," said Greg Hicks, spokesman of the Virginia Farm Bureau. Fairgoers "will not see a significant difference, but there will be some nice additions and some new twists to make it more exciting."
The Virginia Farm Bureau and Universal Fairs have partnered to bring the best of the best in Virginia to the 2012 State Fair of Virginia. The new owners took over the fair this year after the previous fair operators declared Chapter 7 bankruptcy and the fair went up for auction.
This year the two entities, working together as Commonwealth Fairs & Events LLC, promise to produce the same fair-tastic favorites that attendees know and love while also trying to educate them on what Virginia does best.
This year's concert series, which is included in the general fair admission price, features a mix of country and rock performers at the Meadow Event Park in Caroline County.
The 1970s British rock band Foghat, described as a boogie-rock group, will play on opening night, Sept. 28, at 7:30 p.m.
The Avalons, who have shared the stage with well-known artists such as the Beach Boys and the Temptations, will perform on Sept. 29 at 7:30 p.m.
Country music singer and songwriter Dustin Lynch, whose debut single, "Cowboys and Angels," hit the top of Billboard's country charts, will take the stage at 7 p.m. on Sept. 30.
Highland Springs' own The Barracudas will play at 7 p.m. on Oct. 3. The band's 1967 album "A Plane View of The Barracudas" is considered a garage-rock classic.
The Honkytonk Heroes will deliver classic and contemporary country at 7 p.m. on Oct. 4.
On Oct. 5, Grammy award-winning country group Diamond Rio will perform at 7:30 p.m. The band's album "The Reason" won the 2011 Grammy for best Southern, country or bluegrass gospel album.
Love and Theft, a country music duo who sing and play guitar, will perform at the fair on Oct. 6 at 7:30 p.m.
The final day of the fair will include a performance by Season 10 "American Idol" standout Casey Abrams at 3 p.m. and country-rock band Kentucky Headhunters at 7:30 p.m.
Seating will be festival-style, which means there will be no assigned seats, and visitors are encouraged to bring lawn chairs or blankets.
A goal for the new fair owners was to put more focus on agriculture. Visitors can learn about Virginia agriculture and see, touch and smell farm exhibits.
For 10 days, the Meadow Pavilion will be transformed into a single, convenient location where fairgoers can learn about the state's many agricultural commodities.
"We feel like the fair is a great opportunity to share information about agriculture and to help dispel some of the myths about farming," said Cathy Vanderhoff, co-chairman of the VFBF State Fair Committee.
Fairgoers who visit the Farm Bureau's exhibit will learn that technological advances have allowed farmers to use fewer crop input chemicals while producing more food. They also will discover that more than 90 percent of Virginia's and the nation's farms are family-owned and that agriculture contributes billions of dollars to the state's economy.
Visitors will receive educational materials and can then spin a prize wheel and answer questions relating to that information.
"We want to make it fun for people," Vanderhoff said. "Our MythBusters handout is pocket-sized, and we hope that fairgoers will keep it with them and then share the information with their family and friends."
The Farm Bureau fair exhibit will also include an area stocked with children's chairs, agriculture-related children's books and coloring sheets.
The Virginia State Beekeepers Association will talk about the importance of pollination in producing the nation's food supply. They also will provide live demonstrations of how bees are tended and honey is harvested.
The Virginia Peanut Growers Association will educate fairgoers about the state's peanuts and how they gained the reputation of being the "Cadillac" of peanuts. Farmers have been growing peanuts in southeastern Virginia's sandy soil since the early 1840s.
The Virginia Christmas Tree Growers Association will have a decorated fresh-cut Christmas tree and information on where families can find fresh Virginia-grown trees this holiday season.
The Piedmont Environmental Council's Buy Fresh, Buy Local exhibit will explain how purchasing locally grown fruits, vegetables, meats and other agricultural products helps Virginia's economy. Research by Virginia Cooperative Extension found that if each Virginia household spent just $10 a week on locally grown agricultural products, consumers would invest an additional $1.65 billion back into their communities.
And, not to be missed, giant pumpkins grown by gardeners and farmers across the state will be on display under the awning of the Meadow Pavilion. Other crop competition winners will be on display in an adjacent tent.
On Oct. 3, the Farm Bureau will host an hourlong virtual tour featuring video footage of six Virginia farms. The presentation will be hosted live from 7 to 8 p.m. at the Meadow Pavilion and will be broadcast on the Farm Bureau's website, VaFarmBureau .org.
Miller Farms, a Spotsylvania County produce farm, is one of the six venues featured in the virtual tour.
Not to worry, the ever-popular racing pigs will be part of the 2012 State Fair of Virginia, and so will a wide variety of other family entertainment. Admission to attractions not on the midway is included in the fair admission price. Daily show times will be available in the printed guide available at the ticket plaza.
In addition to the Hambone Pig Races--the swiftest swine off the line--fairgoers will be able to see and learn about impressive Alaskan grizzly bears and stunning (and endangered) Bengal tigers.
The Rhinestone Roper show will feature whip-cracking, trick-roping, knife-throwing, gunslinging performers, and the Fearless Flores Thrill Show will include motorcycle madness in the act's Globe of Death, a human cannonball and high-rise feats of skill and balance.
The two-legged and four-legged stars of the Skin & Bones Comedy Circus will deliver magic, juggling, low-wire spectacles and plenty of comedy, featuring trained dogs and potbellied pigs.
Schoolchildren will tour farming- and forestry-related exhibits such as Young MacDonald's Farm, which includes the Dairy Calving Center and the Children's Hand-Milking Corner, as well as beef cattle exhibits.
Winning a blue ribbon at the State Fair is also a treasured tradition, and most of the public competitions are back, including those for fresh produce, honey, preserves, baked goods, sewing, needlework and photography, and a Sept. 29 Brunswick stew competition.
The Sept. 29 SyCom Demolition Derby will begin at 1 p.m., with participants competing for cash prizes.
On Oct. 2, two turkeys that are part of a flock of 39 raised specifically for the purpose of becoming a National Thanksgiving Turkey will be strutting their stuff in a grassy area behind the Meadow Hall residence.
If history repeats itself, two of the turkeys from the special flock will be presented to and pardoned by the president in November. Afterward, the birds will live the rest of their lives at the farm exhibit at George Washington's Mount Vernon estate.
In recognition of the Meadow Event Park's ties to Thoroughbred racing superstars such as Secretariat and Riva Ridge, the 2012 fair will include equine events.
A new event at this year's fair is the Stampede 5K, a run and walk that will benefit the Virginia Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom. AITC is a statewide educational program that provides teachers with resources they can use to teach children the importance of agriculture in the commonwealth and in their daily lives. That event will be held on the last day of the fair, Oct. 7.
Throughout the entirety of the fair there will also be fun fair foods including funnel cakes, candied apples, turkey legs, elephant ears and fried Oreos, Twinkies, Snickers and whatever else can be dipped in batter.
Portsia Smith: 540/374-5419
Season passes will be available online before 5 p.m. today for $25. After that, they will be available at the gate for $30
A one-day Family Fun Pack for two adults and two youth admissions plus two unlimited-ride wristbands is $68. It is available online until Oct. 5.
On Tuesday, Oct. 2, an unlimited-ride wristband can be purchased for $12 with the purchase of a regular weekday general-admission ticket.Tickets and info: Visitors to the fair can purchase tickets online at StateFairVa.org and also at Central Virginia BB&T branches and Martin's Food Markets.