While rural areas dwindle in Chesterfield County and suburbia continues to take hold, one activity that remains constant at the end of summer is the county fair. This Friday, the 100th Chesterfield County Fair opens for an eight-day run and will welcome visitors not just from Chesterfield County, as in the early days of the fair, but from all over the region.
Ken Chandler, president of the Chesterfield County Fair Association, reflected on his fair memories in this year’s Chesterfield County Fair Premium List guide. The guide is published for fair participants and attendees. “As a young boy growing up in Chesterfield County, one of my fondest memories is of coming to the Chesterfield County Fair,” stated Chandler. “It wasn’t a large fair, but it was a place where you would see people you hadn’t seen in a year.”
Originating in 1911 after a popular corn show exhibit organized by Sen. John B. Watkins in 1910, the first fair was a two-day show held behind the courthouse between Lori Road and the Mimms Loop area. The first years mostly focused on agricultural exhibits by local farmers, but as the popularity grew, so did the entertainment. Along with farmers showcasing their finest crops; livestock became part of the competition, food and exhibit competition from the local granges (an association of farmers in various parts of the county) became quite competitive and entertainment from the horse shows with a half-mile race track and harness racing drew large crowds. The fair proved to be not just a place to showcase their crops and livestock, but a place for people to relax, see old friends and participate in activities; softball games and sack races, tug-of-war and watermelon seed-spitting contests, the carnival rides and food.
The county fair has evolved over the years and adapted to the county’s population growth. The fair was moved to its present location on Courthouse Road, across from L. C. Bird High School, in 1989. The traditional agricultural and livestock displays have been reduced due to fewer farmers, but the educational aspect of farming is still very strong with special displays in the Arts and Crafts Building, where tradition continues with residents entering vegetables, flowers and handwork for a chance to win a blue ribbon, and the Heritage Village and Chesterfield Tractor Club displays. The midway games and rides continue to be popular and the entertainment gets bigger and better every year with several new attractions coming in for the 100th anniversary. The fair will showcase Extreme Bull Riding competition, sanctioned by SEBRA, opening weekend and GXW Pro-Wrestling mid-week. The Grandstand entertainment shows are free with admission to the fair. Keith Henderson “Illusions of the King,” American Pride, Flashback Band, Southland Band, and the Heart of Country Band return to the stage and the Miss Chesterfield County Fair Pageant will be held Monday night. The new music line-up includes country music singer, Jeremy Staubus; The Pizazz Band, Beach/Top 40/Rock; and American Pride, Statler Brothers Tribute Band.
Several new daily attractions have been added which include the White Bengal Tiger Encounter Show, Woody’s Menagerie – Zoo, Rowdy Rooster Puppet Show, One Man Band Show, No Joe’s Circus, Miniature Call Duck Display, Old Fashion Homemade Soap Demonstration, James River Woodcarvers, Brahma Bull Rides, and to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the fair, a Chesterfield County Fair Association Memorabilia display in the Arts and Crafts building. Racing pigs, camel and pony rides, nightly karaoke contest, bingo and touring the rabbit and poultry tents will all add to the fun.
Julie Williams, fair manager, said that along with the several new features, the association has added the option of buying tickets online at their website and to make the fair even more accessible to everyone, Mobility Concepts, LLC will be providing strollers, wagons, wheel chairs and electric scooters for rent. She said the association sees no signs of slowing down. “I am so proud to be able to say that our association has been in existence for this long, and we are not showing any signs of slowing down,” Williams stated. “In fact, each year the fair continues to grow. My hope is that everyone attending the fair makes special memories and will return for many years to come, because we are a family tradition built by families proudly representing Chesterfield County.”
Chandler said this is the largest fair ever. “One hundred years is quite an accomplishment for a fair run by volunteers,” he said. “It is my wish that we have a large turnout for this special year and new memories will be formed for the young and old alike.”
Admission to the fair is $8 for adults, $5 for seniors, $3 for children six – 12 and free for children under five. Membership to the Chesterfield County Fair Association is $7, and as a member, you receive two tickets to the fair. Fair hours are Monday – Friday, 4 p.m. – 11 p.m.; Saturday 11 a.m. – 11 p.m.; and Sunday 1 p.m. – 11 p.m. The fair is located at 10300 Courthouse Rd. For more information about the 100th Chesterfield County Fair visit www.chesterfieldcountyfair.org .