MADISON — The theme of this year’s Madison County Fair, “Country Nights Under Fair Lights,” evokes memories of livestock shows, carnival rides and demolition derbies of fairs past. It runs from Wednesday to Saturday at the Madison County Fairgrounds.
There is a wide range of activities at this year’s family-friendly event, such as the traditional livestock shows, carnival rides, contests, live music and home-economics exhibits.
All four days will have live entertainment, including Lance Gifford’s magic and hypnotist shows, the True Grit Rodeo and The Great Lakes Timber Show, a log-rolling and wood-carving act that’s new to the fair. Each day also features live local country and bluegrass music.
The annual fireman’s parade is the official kickoff to the Madison County Fair. Each year, local fire companies and rescue units, church and school groups and area organizations parade down Main Street from Waverly Yowell Elementary School to the fairgrounds starting at 6:30 p.m. Also on Wednesday are 4-H dairy and swine shows, live music from the Dark Hollow Band at 7:30 p.m. and a pie-eating contest at 8 p.m.
Thursday features 4-H beef, goat and sheep shows, the kids pedal tractor pull, a return of the Power Wheels Derby, music by James Tamelcoff and a rescue demonstration by the Madison Volunteer Fire Department and the Madison County Rescue Squad.
The 4-H/FFA livestock auction will be held Friday, along with a cornhole tournament, the True Grit Rodeo and music from Austin Boggs.
The fair wraps up Saturday with the garden tractor pull at 9 a.m., the Cloverbud Bucket Baby Show at 11 a.m., the Little Miss and Mister Pageant at 2 p.m., a watermelon-eating contest at 4:30 p.m. and the demolition derby at 8 p.m.
Fair board member Essie Berry said she is looking forward to this year’s events.
“We have a good mix of old and new events this year,” said Berry. “This year, we added the Little Miss and Mister Pageant because we’ve had so many requests to bring it back. The fire and rescue squad have planned a rescue demonstration for Thursday. We have old favorites like Wes Islei’s illusion show, the demolition derby and local music acts. The rodeo was a great success last year and they are expanding their act and bringing 25 bulls. The Luray Zoo is bringing animals, and we have the egg council’s Berry Delicious Cooking Contest. We really try to have something for everybody.”
Berry is hopeful that the Power Wheels Derby will attract more entries than last year.
“We’re going to give it a try again this year and see how it goes,” she said. “It is another event for kids. … We’re not allowing any power source bigger than a lawn mower battery, and everyone needs to have a seat belt. A lot of people seemed interested last year but weren’t quite sure about it. Now they know what it is, so I’m hopeful that we’ll have more kids.”
Once again, 4-H animal exhibits are up this year. Kelly Mallory, 4-H extension agent for Madison County, said the livestock shows have 150 animals entered, up slightly from 2017. Mallory is pleased with the strong participation in the 4-H livestock his year and points out that 4-H livestock projects are a long-term commitment and take several months to complete. The weigh-in is in winter and early spring and the project culminates with the fair show and auction.
Berry expects a large number of home, farm and garden exhibits again this year and pointed out that the division has seen steady growth over the past few years. This year, children who bring 12 or more entries in the home, farm and garden division receive a free pass covering all four days of the fair.
Berry said the fair board works hard to find acts that are both affordable and entertaining.
“With prices of everything going up, we work to keep our admission price affordable,” she said. “We are also thankful for all the support from our community and the surrounding areas. Our sponsors are from not just Madison, but Culpeper, Orange and Greene, too.”
Because the annual event has had weather woes the past few years, the Madison County Fair Facebook page will be updated several times each day throughout the duration of the fair, and people can call (540) 948-7073 for schedule changes, tickets and more information.
Admission is $5 Wednesday and Thursday and $10 Friday and Saturday. Tickets are free for children 8 and younger. Passes covering all four days are available for $20. Arm bands for the carnival are $15 Wednesday and Thursday and $18 Friday and Saturday.