Friday was opening night of the Fredericksburg Agricultural Fair, and as has become a tradition for my husband and me, we went. The fair is one of those things that is a throwback to Fredericksburg’s more rural roots, and when we first moved here, its appeal was that it was completely different from anything we had grown up with up north. Admittedly, with fewer farms in the Fredericksburg area each year, the agricultural aspect of the fair is definitely on the wane. Most years, there have been three large buildings for the animals, one filled with chickens and rabbits, one devoted to sheep and goats, and one that has a petting area with a variety of young farm animals. Then of course there is the cow barn, where all the 4-H’ers display the cows they raised from birth. Another big building is filled with domestic arts like knitting and sewing and crafts, plus homegrown veggies and preserves. Then a commercial building filled with booths hawking things like replacement windows and hot tubs. Top this off with a midway filled with carny characters running sketchy looking amusement park rides. And on top of THAT, the highlight of a trip to the fair for us, the Miss Fredericksburg Fair pageant.
Now, this year’s fair was missing some of the key ingredients that used to make this such a satisfying trip. The handicrafts were lame or non-existent, there was a meager showing of home-grown produce, the commercial building was half empty, and we couldn’t care less about the midway. But much worse, all of the poultry, the dozens of chickens and roosters from the mundane to the flamboyant, were missing. Don’t ask me what the attraction of this had always been for us. The place was exceedingly smelly, and we’re talking about rows and rows of animals in very small cages not unlike a low-budget roadside zoo. Nonetheless, the exhibit was always more appealing than appalling. But the head of such things for the state of Virginia put a moratorium on displaying live poultry this month (this sounds vaguely ominous, no?). As for the rabbits, what used to be dozens of animals on display was now down to a handful (still cute as can be). And NO sheep or goats. I have no idea why not. Are country folk just not raising sheep and goats anymore? Or are they just not trucking them to the Fair for display? Or was it just opening night of the fair, so they hadn’t gotten there yet? That’s my hope, but if anyone knows what’s up with that, I’d love to know. We did enjoy the cows (well, I enjoy them from a reasonable distance, and my husband strokes them lovingly on the head, leading me to believe that he probably would have loved 4-H as a kid if we had been raised in a place that had 4-H). And most importantly, the Miss Fredericksburg Fair pageant did not disappoint (more on that later).
Here are a few photos so you can get the flavor of the fair:
I have an increasing aversion to amusement park rides, and will only go on a merry-go-round if I can sit on the immovable swan bench. Note the "Funnel Cake Factory" in the background, including fried oreos.
Here is some award-winning produce, including the first and second prize "beet pickle" (which were also the only two jars of beet pickle in the fair), and some mighty large pumpkins (the 8.5 x 11" sign on front of the table gives you an idea of the scale).
An antique tractor. There was a whole building of these...hmm, maybe the tractors displaced the sheep? Now that would be a tragedy.