State Fair of Va. kicks off with its trade­mark food, fun

Doswell event has an­i­mal ex­hi­bi­tions, live mu­sic and more

Richmond Times-Dispatch Weekend - - Metro - BY MICHAEL O’CON­NOR Rich­mond Times-Dis­patch

Whether it’s to en­joy the rides, munch on fun­nel cake or show off a prized cow, the State Fair of Vir­ginia at The Meadow Event Park is a tra­di­tion that for many stretches back to their child­hood.

Greg Har­ri­son’s first visit was in 1975 when he was 9 years old, and he won a top prize for one of his cows on a sec­ond trip. On Fri­day, the Lees­burg res­i­dent was back on the fair­grounds while his 9-year-old daugh­ter, Eleanor, com­peted in the Ju­nior Dairy­men’s Con­test.

“She’s been work­ing up to this,” Har­ri­son said with pride.

It was Eleanor’s first trip to the state fair, but agri­cul­tural com­pe­ti­tions and dairy farm­ing go back sev­eral gen­er­a­tions in her fam­ily. Her grand­par­ents — Greg’s par­ents — were dairy farm­ers, but the herd got sold in the ’80s as milk prices dropped. Eleanor’s dreams of study­ing dairy science in col­lege and be­com­ing a vet­eri­nar­ian for large an­i­mals means that the fam­ily tra­di­tion may live on.

“She’s fallen in love with it,” Har­ri­son said.

The fair got off to a sunny start Fri­day in Doswell and will con­clude Oct. 8. The days in be­tween are filled with live mu­sic, an­i­mal ex­hi­bi­tions, stunts and plenty of fried food.

Ad­ja­cent to the rows of cows were sta­bles lined with prized horses and their train­ers. Jonathan Shaw, a friend and client of El Te­soro Paso Fino Farm in Bru­ing­ton, was there with Domino, a Paso Fino horse and BB-8, a Har­ris’s hawk, perched on his arm.

“I use horses for the an­cient art of fal­conry,” said Shaw, a mas­ter fal­coner, horse­man and wildlife pain­ter.

Shaw said he was prob­a­bly the only per­son in Vir­ginia who prac­ticed fal­conry while on horse­back. Later, he planned to give a pre­sen­ta­tion on work­ing with hawks and the his­tory of Paso Fino horses, which are said to be the orig­i­nal war horse of the Span­ish Con­quis­ta­dors. Shaw owns 10 of them, and it amazed him how few peo­ple get the chance to be around them or hawks.

Right along­side the cel­e­bra­tion of an­i­mal science were the mon­u­ments to ma­chin­ery in the forms of rides and spec­ta­cles. Fri­day saw dirt-bike riders brav­ing the day’s light wind as they shot off ramps high above flames and a crowd of on­look­ers.

And of course there is the food, an at­trac­tion in it­self: Frozen ba­nanas covered in choco­late, strom­boli, deep-fried Oreos, Wis­con­sin cheese, veg­etable lo mein.

Near the per­for­mances were the dozens of games and car­ni­val bark­ers ca­jol­ing fam­i­lies and cou­ples to step right up and try their luck.

Jeremiah Pugh has been a game op­er­a­tor off and on for about eight years. He found the part-time job on the in­ter­net.

It’s had its ups and downs.

“The main thing is you come out to bring joy to peo­ple,” he said.

Be­hind him were rows of bits of PVC pipe stacked in small pyra­mids. For $2, peo­ple could try to knock them down and win a plush prize. When he knows he’s made a sale, Pugh winks at a fel­low game op­er­a­tor nearby. Pugh said none of the games were rigged. “You just got to hit it right,” he said.

MARK GORMUS/TIMES-DIS­PATCH

The State Fair of Vir­ginia brought a col­or­ful ar­ray of food stands, games and rides to The Meadow Event Park in Doswell on Fri­day. The fair runs through Oct. 8.

Jonathan Shaw (left), a mas­ter fal­coner, was at the fair with BB-8, his Har­ris’s hawk. Shaw said he is prob­a­bly the only per­son in the state who prac­tices fal­conry on horse­back.

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