Families will, once again, have an eagerly awaited opportunity to explore the plethora of exciting demonstrations, exhibits, activities, entertainment and rides of the Fredericksburg Agricultural Fair from July 30 through Aug. 8.
“It’s been two years since we’ve had the fair. It will be so great to see kids getting their cotton candy and corn dogs, meeting the animals at our petting zoo, and riding our ponies and camels,” said general manager Travis Bullock. “We will have some new rides this year and the Agricadabra magic show by Brad Matchett that will engage and entertain his audience and educate them about the magic of agriculture along the way.”
Festivities will kick off on Friday evening with the Miss Fredericksburg Fair pageant, celebrating Princesses of ages 5-12, and Ambassadors of ages 13-16, who serve as role models for peers through their community service and academic achievement.
Featured entertainment throughout the fair will include Patsy & the Country Classics, Spanglish, DJ Bill Carrol, Michael Hoover with “Memories of Elvis,” The Real Deal Band and Steve Jarrell, with his repertoire of ’60s music that is bound to conjure up treasured memories of yesteryear.
Throughout the fair, a spectrum of ATV, SXS and truck contests at the Motor Sports Park, coordinated by Sonny Pippin of the Stafford-based Mountain View Mudders, will provide thrills for contestants and spectators alike. Scheduled events include a Truck and Tractor Pull, and a Mud Bog, with trucks vying to go the farthest distance through a giant mud hole.
“We will have different classes for different trucks. Some come just as they were when they were driven on the road, while others have been modified so that they can go across 150 feet in a matter of seconds,” said Pippin.
Events at the Motor Sports Park will also include three demolition derbies, and contests for ATV and SXS vehicles, including the Bounty Hole mudpit, drag races and a special challenge obstacle course, in which drivers take on challenges such as mounting a dirt mound and a tire pyramid. Motor Sports challenges will also include a Future Drivers Race, where children ages 4–6 compete with their motorized Power Wheels vehicles. These races include a Box Stock category (for vehicles as they come “out of the box”) and a Modified category (for young drivers whose parents couldn’t resist the urge to soup up their “wheels”).
“If people like horse power, dirt and mud, our events are for them. We are all like-minded big kids still playing in the dirt!” said Pippin.
Featured events throughout the fair will also include demonstrations of the awe-inspiring wood-hewn sculptures of Ackmonsters Chainsaw Art, with creations carved by Brian Ackley on request before visitors’ eyes. In addition, blacksmithing demonstrations will be presented by the craftsmen of the Black Horse Forge, a nonprofit organization that instructs veterans, active-duty military and first-responders in the art of blacksmithing and blade-smithing. The demonstrations will include making knives, bows and hooks and other forged items and may also provide attendees to try their hand at the anvil.
A long-standing favorite exhibit will be the display by the Patawomeck Indian Tribe, featuring a dug-out canoe, a longhouse, and drumming and dancing presentations. There will also be an opportunity for visitors to learn about the heritage and culture of the tribe. Guests may be surprised to learn that the Patawomeck Tribe are Stafford County’s first inhabitants and can be traced back as early as the 1300s.
A classic highlight of the fair is the showing and presentation of livestock, including cattle, horses, sheep and swine, and poultry and rabbits. The animals will be featured in the comfort of an air-conditioned building this year.
Another traditional and treasured feature of the fair is the exhibit of hundreds of entries from community members that are judged and displayed. Categories range from baked goods, canned items, produce and eggs to flower arrangements, plants, homemaking, and arts and crafts. All of the entries must be delivered on the Thursday before the fair’s opening, and entrants often await the unveiling of ribbon-winners with excitement and enthusiasm.
“There are people who are at the door waiting for the Homemakers’ Building to open on the first day, and many return throughout the fair,” said Teresa Bullock, who has taken on the herculean task of organizing the displays and coordinating the exhibits. “When children come in and see a ribbon on their entry, they are ecstatic!”
A portion of the Homemakers’ Building has also been devoted to the fascinating 24-by-24-foot train layout that has been created by members of the Rappahannock Model Railroaders club. Featuring two of the club’s O-Scale model trains on two loops of nearly 100 feet of track, the layout is composed of modules that include scenarios of a carnival, a junkyard and a beach scene.
“The kids are fascinated with the lights and movement of the carnival display’s Ferris wheel, merry-go-round and roller coaster, and they are enthralled by the trains’ smoke and sound as they travel through the layout,” said Bob Hunter, RMR vice president. “The sight of the display may also elicit fond childhood memories and stories from parents and grandparents who grew up with their own train sets.”
The attraction and delight of the fair is expressed by Vicki Harrison, who had taken her 16-year-old grandson John Daniel to its festivities since he was 6.
“The first time we went, once our tickets were purchased, he ran straight for the rides. After he tried one he would run to the next, never tiring until it was time to leave,” she said. “The fair became an event that everyone in Fredericksburg looked forward to. The Wednesday of Fair Week was ‘city day,’ and schools were closed for the half day. There was a parade through town and then everyone gathered at the fair. It was packed!”
Now in its 283rd year, the Fredericksburg Agricultural Fair is the oldest fair in the nation and was instituted in 1738 by a proclamation of the Virginia House of Burgess. Ten years ago, board members Wendy Jones, John Wayne Edwards and David Rose joined forces to create a museum to document the rich history of the fair for its 275th anniversary and worked for two years, gathering mementos, articles and photos. Jones traveled to Williamsburg where she searched for the proclamation that launched the event and secured a copy that is now the first thing that visitors to the museum see.
“In the course of the decades, the fair was featured in six different locations, including Market Square and the original grounds of Kenmore,” she said. “The fair played a significant role in the growth of Fredericksburg, and people came by train from Maryland, Washington and Richmond to see it. Even George Washington came to the fair.”
Among the items and documentation displayed throughout the three rooms of the museum building are yearbooks that Jones created featuring the highlights of the fairs throughout the years. The museum will be open to visitors during the fair’s run.
For many, a highlight of this year’s fair will be encounters with NOJOE the award-winning clown (aka Joey Thurmond), who has brought joy and uplifting engagement with families in appearances throughout the East Coast. Thurmond says he values the opportunity to be off the stage and strolling through the crowd.
“It’s fantastic because you are able to devote all of your attention to just one or two people at a time. Your interaction is contoured and unique just for them, and it’s a much more personal experience,” he said.
The heart and motivation behind Thurmond’s engagement is the essence of the Fredericksburg Agriculture Fair.
“There is really nothing else in our society that cuts across every socioeconomic boundary, every ethnic boundary. It’s about having fun and even for a split-second taking people out of their daily life and bringing them into your world to remember what it used to be like or to think of what it could be like,” he said. “The fair is magical just like the circus. It shows up overnight and you have all these smells and tastes and feelings and all of these things going on. Then, in nine or 10 days, it is literally gone till the next year.”