State Fair of Va. kicks off with its trademark food, fun
Doswell event has animal exhibitions, live music and more
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.
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.