By Daniel Sherrier
What do an alligator wrestler, a chainsaw sculptor, and a bunch of horses have in common?
They’re all part of the 2014 State Fair of Virginia, which will run Sept. 26 to Oct. 5 at the Meadow Event Park.
State Fair officials conducted a press conference Monday morning to go over this year’s entertainment.
“This year’s fair … is going to be an exciting fair,” State Fair president Jeff Dillon said. “It’s going to contain something for everyone, and no matter your age, your background or whatever your interest is.”
The State Fair’s “mission is to showcase agriculture,” Dillon continued, adding that agriculture has been a part of the fair since 1854.
“Farm Bureau is very involved in this operation out here now, and so there’s a strong synergy between Farm Bureau, Meadow Event Park, and the State Fair, and we’re very proud of that,” Dillon said.
Last year’s fair brought in 229,000 visitors, and organizers are hoping for more in 2014.
Dillon noted the new 40,000-square-foot First Bank & Trust Pavilion on the property, which should get plenty of use during the fair and other events.
“It’s going to allow us to do more livestock shows. We’ll have dog agility shows. We’ll do more equestrian events under this facility. We’ll also be able to use it as a backup facility for concerts during bad weather,” he said.
State Fair spokeswoman Kathy Dixon highlighted some of the numerous attractions coming up at this year’s fair.
Youth will have an opportunity to win scholarship money by decorating hay bales. “We’re providing the hay bales, and we’re asking 4-H and FFA groups to come in and decorate them any way that they see fit,” Dixon said.
The Virginia Wine Competition is coming back. Entries have already been judged, and winners will be displayed at the fair.
“We will also have some wineries there to let people sample their winning vintages and buy some of their wines. That’s something that we haven’t had for a few years,” Dixon said.
The State Fair also has its own beer, called Virginia Midway.
New last year was a display of crops that were growing during the fair dates. For this year’s selection, Caroline County 4-H youth have built raised beds.
“This way, people who live in the city and don’t have a lot of land, they can learn how they can grow their own garden. We hope to have some signage out there explaining what urban gardening is so they can take advantage of that,” Dixon said.
Weigh-ins for oversized pumpkins and watermelons will be back, of course. “Seven-hundred-plus pounds of gourd goodness is always a crowd-pleaser,” she said.
Different breeds of horses will be featured at the fair each day, courtesy of the Virginia Horse Industry Board. Plus, a “Salute to Secretariat” will take place on Sept. 27 and 28 and Oct. 4 and 5, during which fair-goers can meet a descendent of the famed Triple-Crown winner who was born and raised at the Meadow.
Demolition Derby is being extended to two nights this year, and there will also be two nights of a professional rodeo featuring bull riding, calf roping, and barrel racing. Kachunga will journey from the Florida swamplands to wrestle a 300-pound alligator barehanded. Folks can also watch a Texan snake handler dominate a glass enclosure full of rattlesnakes. Or, if they prefer, they can become hypnotized by Lance Gifford & Company and marvel at their magic tricks.
Also, Ben Risney will again use chainsaws to sculpt wood into art.
“You have not see anything until you’ve seen a log transform into an eagle or a golden retriever,” Dixon said.
She mentioned that the wood sculptures are auctioned off at the end of the fair each year, and proceeds benefit the State Fair’s scholarship fund.
Musical performers booked this year include Parmalee, Alex Hilton Band, The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Eric Paslay, Brett Eldredge, and more. Saturday, Oct. 4, will feature the 33rd Annual Country Showdown.
“In addition to national talent, we have local artists from across the state, such as Offering,” Dixon said. “They’re going to play on our local stage. It’s called the Triple Crown Amphitheatre.”
The State Fair isn’t the only event that takes place at the Meadow Event Park.
Last weekend the park hosted the Thoroughbred Heritage Horse Show, which showed off the skills of former racehorses. Of the 160 participating horses, 51 were descended from Meadow stables bloodlines.
Also, Dillon announced that the first Illuminate Light Show and Santa’s Village at the Meadow will light up Doswell this November. The drive-through light show will be “a first of its kind,” he said.
“True, there are other lightshows in Virginia, but when you see this lightshow, you see the technology involved in this show, the LED lighting, the sound, the choreographics that go on with this show, truly it will be an event unlike anything else Virginians have seen in the past,” he said.
For more information about the State Fair, go to StateFairVa.org.