2012 PRESS RELEASES
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August 15, 2012
VIRGINIA STATE FAIR RETURNS TO ITS ROOTS
By Matthew J. Lohr, Commissioner, Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS)
Contact: Elaine J. Lidholm, 804.786.7686
I learned a valuable lesson from my parents. Actually, I learned many of them, but this one has served me especially well throughout my life: sometimes when things look bleak, we need to think outside the box and discover new opportunities and possibilities. So it has been with the State Fair of Virginia this year.
For awhile there, it appeared that we would not have a 2012 state fair at all. The former owners went into Chapter 7 bankruptcy and there were a few nervous weeks when we thought this was the end of a 150 year-old tradition. That was the bleak part.
Everyone breathed a sigh of relief when Universal Fairs LLC out of Tennessee bought both the State Fair of Virginia property and the name. Everyone breathed even deeper when they announced they would produce a Fair in 2012 - September 28 through October 7 - and that it would emphasize agriculture.
The biggest sigh of all came when the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation bought a 50 percent interest in the fair with the goal of not only keeping agriculture as a focus, but making it even stronger. As far as we know, this is the first instance where a Farm Bureau organization bought a significant portion of a state fair and will help produce it. So I am happy to report that as of this date, the State Fair of Virginia is alive and doing quite well. The fair this year may be smaller, but it will offer plenty of entertainment, amazement, education and grazing for the citizens of Virginia and surrounding states.
Many things will stay the same. It just wouldn’t be the State Fair of Virginia without farm animals, giant pumpkins, rabbits, displays of the state’s best fruits and vegetables, hatching chicks and a dairy birthing center. Also returning are the arts and crafts competition, Young MacDonald’s Farm and livestock exhibits. Most livestock exhibits will be grouped in the Young MacDonald’s Farm area.
Because so much work and advanced planning is required for livestock exhibits, the 4-H and FFA livestock shows will be at the Rockingham County Fairgrounds in 2012, but cows, sheep, chickens, pigs and other animals will be on hand during the run of the fair.
Last year the fair introduced a Microbrewing Festival, and it will be back in 2012. The Fair is reinstating equine events at the facility and is ready to welcome horses and their owners to the park. Given the historic association between the park and Triple Crown winner Secretariat, a full slate of equine events is a priority at the new State Fair of Virginia.
I know fairgoers will be glad to see old favorites this year, but I think they will be surprised at some exciting new features and events. This year on October 3, the fair is hosting the Real Virginia Virtual Farm Tour, a live internet broadcast. Consumers can ask their most pressing agricultural questions and a panel of experts will answer them. These can be as simple as “Where can I find a pick-your-own pumpkin farm?” to “How will state and federal policy influence renewable energy production in Virginia.” During the live broadcast, participants will be able to tour six Virginia family farms via video.
I really appreciate the focus on agriculture that embraces all the traditional elements but that also emphasizes technology. Most of you know how farm technology has just exploded in the past few years. Many of you probably use GPS to target your pesticide applications or you market your products on Facebook and Twitter as much as at the farm gate. I’m glad to see the State Fair educating people about agriculture using up-to-date technology.
In keeping with this theme, we will offer online resources as part of the educational emphasis. You will learn how my daughter raised lambs for her 4-H project and see our farm through the eyes of my son when he was five. You’ll find these at here.
Speaking of ag education, another new feature at the fair this year will be the Ag in the Classroom (AITC) Stampede. This 5K run will wind through the various agriculture exhibits that are on display on the final day of the fair. It also serves as a fundraiser for AITC, an educational program that brings modern agriculture directly to the classroom. Our Virginia Grown program is a sponsor of the event. Click here to learn more or sign up.
Other new features will include the State Fair Special Cookie Competition, an event children may enter with their parents, grandparents or guardians. The fair is also working with the Museum of the Virginia Horse to build an equine museum on site. This won’t happen in 2012, but it’s something to anticipate for the future.
I constantly remind people that agriculture is our largest industry in Virginia to emphasize just how important it is – not only to feed and clothe us but to bolster our economy. The State Fair is one way that we can educate the public about the industry, and we are proud to continue to be partners in this endeavor. Look for our exhibit in the Commonwealth Building and look for our staff elsewhere around the facility. You’ll see VDACS employees grading livestock, checking scales or inspecting animals to ensure they have Certificates of Veterinary Inspection. You may not recognize them in civilian clothes, but many of them also will be there on their own time showing livestock or competing in equine events.
The fair is important to us personally and professionally, and we couldn’t be more delighted to see its continuation in 2012. So let me close by telling you how you can participate. Links to enter adult and youth competitions can be found at here. The deadline for entries is September 7.New announcements related to this year’s fair are being posted on the State Fair’s website and Facebook page continuously, so check back often, register for competitions and make plans now to attend the 2012 State Fair of Virginia. See you there.