By Jeff Poole
Annually, the Orange County Fair projects to be four fun-filled days celebrating the community’s rich agricultural heritage.
And while the success of that heritage is linked to rain, the opposite is true for the fair.
For the past two years, the Orange County Fair has endured extreme weather that has overshadowed the event itself.
Two years ago, it was a tent-toppling microburst. Last year, it was nine inches of rain.
With a little more than a week before this year’s fair begins, board president Willie Lohr knows good weather is the key to a successful fair.
After all, it was the extreme heat and humidity that led organizers to shift the fair from its traditional July date to a month earlier.
“Hopefully, we won’t get any rain,” Lohr said. “A lot of it depends on the weather.”
Orange County Extension Agent Kaci Daniel agreed.
“We’re looking forward to great weather,” she said. “The Orange Fair is due!”
Still, fair organizers have a family-fun line-up planned that offers a few new features, some streamlined schedules and plenty of contests, challenges and events to help participants achieve this year’s theme, “Big dreams in a small town.”
For the second year in a row, the fair will offer carnival-style rides that Lohr hopes continues to draw new visitors to the fair.
“We’re an agricultural fair and we want to reach a broader audience—ones who don’t necessarily know about agriculture,” he said. “The rides are a good way to get them to come see and explore.”
Once on site, visitors—particularly young ones—can learn all kinds of things about livestock and animals through 4-H exhibits, shows, tents and tables.
“The fair provides a chance for 4-H members to share with the public what they’ve been learning over the past year, through tactile exhibits like in the animal education tent, educational posters at each animal stall and personal visits to potential supporters of the 4-H auction,” Daniel explained.
And, for the members themselves, the fair is the culminating experience for the previous year’s efforts.
“For many of our 4-H members, it’s a chance to show off their project work. Whether archery members who demonstrate their skills on the targets or animal exhibitors who compete in the show ring, it’s important for kids to have a chance to earn recognition for their efforts.
“In addition to high quality, locally raised animals, the auction will also feature items such as home decor, gift baskets, and a catered dinner to benefit 4-H club treasuries,” Daniel added.
Outside of the 4-H and animal arenas, visitors will find the exhibit tent filled with the finest flowers, foods, photos, arts and crafts from Orange County citizens ages 5 to 95.
Local musical entertainment includes popular Madison bluegrass band Pickin’ Daisies, and, new to the fair this year, Elvis tribute artist Stewart Chapman from Greene County.
For those more interested in things crashing into one another, the Ultimate Championship Wrestling returns for a second year on Friday evening, while the demolition derby is a popular Saturday night attraction.
“We’ve enlarged the derby track and added some permanent lighting there to try to improve that event,” Lohr noted. The fair board also decided to eliminate the Saturday night concert in the entertainment tent to avoid having two conflicting events for fair participants. As the fair is a family-friendly event, this year’s derby offers young drivers a chance to test their skills on smaller skill with a new power wheels derby. The event will challenge children in a series of tasks with their miniature motorized cars, trucks and things that go.
Lohr also noted that Friday night’s lawnmower pull should draw competition from throughout the mid-Atlantic.
“Mountain Motor Sports really has enhanced the lawnmower pull for this year,” Lohr noted. “I think folks will really enjoy that.”
Other new features include a visit from Montpelier’s “Mr. Madison, who will visit the fair Friday to “reacquaint himself with Orange County citizens” and nationally touring illusion and escape artists Josh and Lea Knotts.
Familiar features including the cow milking contest, 4-H challenge events, Cloverbud parades, K-9 demonstrations, Jack Russell terrier races, disc dogs, draft horse pull and mule show, antique tractor pull, Oakland Heights drill team demonstration, the fair’s horse show and the 30th annual Miss Orange County Fair pageant.
(A complete schedule is available at: www.orangenews.com.)
The fair will open Wednesday, June 19, with the horse show at 3 p.m., and runs through Saturday, June 22. Admission Wednesday and Thursday for adults (ages 11 and up) is $5 per day. Children (10 and under) are admitted for free. Admission Friday and Saturday is $10 for adults, while children still are admitted for free. Four-day passes are $20 and available on the fair’s website at www.orangecountyfairva.com.
The fair is staged at 133 Fairground Road off of Old Gordonsville Road in Orange.
“We really hope the community comes out and enjoys this year’s fair,” Lohr said. “It’s really like a reunion. I always remember coming to fair and seeing people I might not have seen all year, but you knew you’d see them at the fair. It’s also good for people to see all the work and effort people put in to their projects and their exhibits. It’s just a great opportunity for the community to come together.”