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Fredericksburg Fair Gets New Management
272nd edition a success

8/22/2010

By Lisa and Robert Limerick

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The Fredericksburg Agricultural Fair was held July 30 - August 8 and was one of the most successful to date. This year,s fair was the 272nd edition and is promoted as America,s oldest agricultural fair. The first fair was held in 1738 and it is still going strong today. The fair is held in Fredericksburg, VA, a southern suburb of Washington D.C. The fair,s average yearly attendance is 25,000-30,000 visitors. Fair organizers had hoped to increase attendance by 10 percent this year but were amazed to find this year,s attendance up by 25 percent. Changes to the fair and spectacular weather helped make the increased attendance possible. Several theme days were held this year that allowed fairgoers with military backgrounds and church bulletins to enter at a discounted price and the addition of Two Dollar Tuesday aided in the increase. On Two Dollar Tuesday, fairgoers paid $2 to enter the fairgrounds, ride coupons were $1 each and all rides were two tickets. Deggeller Attractions of Stuart, FL returned for another year of exciting midway fun. Finishing up a run in Lynchburg, VA they rolled into Fredericksburg with more rides, games, and food equipment than in years past. Some of the rides at this year,s fair included the Extreme, the Big Wheel, Starship 2000, Super Round Up, Musik Express, Super Slide, a Big Eli 16 Wheel, and a Scrambler that has been updated with new paint and some very bright and flashy LED lights. Children,s rides included a brand new looking Wiggle Worms, the Elephants ride, Hampton Four Wheelers, Quadzilla, Circus Train and Orient Express. Two new rides for this year,s fair were the Windsurfer and the Viper. The Windsurfer has movable wings that let riders turn it from side to side as the ride spins in a circle. The Viper is a brightly painted red and yellow ride that resembles the old Cobra ride of years past. Fairgoers seemed to enjoy both of the new rides. Food is probably the most important part of the fair for a lot of people who attend the event. lAll of the usual fair food was available including corn dogs, sausages and all the sweets that one person could eat. Fairgoer Richard Oliver stated "the Italian Sausage from one of the traveling stands on the midway had the most meat on it that I have ever seen at a fair and it was delicious, I may have another one later on". There were several new food vendors this year to add to the already delicious menu that included Pizza Hut and an ice cream and frozen custard stand. The cows in the livestock barn weren,t the only cows at the fair this year, Chick-Fil-A had a booth and people were excited about meeting the popular spokes-cows as they paraded around the grounds. Arnest Seafood had a full menu of seafood including a delicious scallop sandwich. Seafood seems to be becoming more popular at fairs and carnivals each year, providing guests with an alternative to the usual fair food in cases where medical or religious conflicts may arise. Apple Frankie,s, made their debut this year and from the looks of the lines they will be returning. Barbecue is always a popular food draw. Benjamin,s Barbecue provided that wood smoked smell of meat cooking and delicious taste of pulled pork. Beach Fries also debuted and they had big shoes to fill, taking over the once popular Stafford Jaycees booth. Beach Fries offered a wide variety of food including French Fries with over 20 toppings to choose from, foot long hotdogs, and a new treat for fair fans, deep fried corn on the cob. Guests were overheard saying "deep fried corn on the cob is great" and "this still counts as a vegetable, right mom". The Fredericksburg Fair is in a major five year revitalization plan. Improvements already made to the property include demolition of some older, dilapidated buildings, new paint, electrical updates, restrooms updated to meet ADA requirements and a new water system. The five year revitalization plan includes making improvements to the grandstands and stage areas, renovations to the homemaker and commercial buildings, improved paving to the property and plans call for upgrades and improvements to the once popular racetrack. Fair organizers are hoping to add a weekly bingo game in 2011 to help with the improvement and upgrade costs. The fair received a big boost when local businessman Travis Bullock retired after a 25-year career with local Union Bank and Trust and came aboard as the new General Manager and Operations Director of the fair. Bullock has been involved in organizing and coaching Little League Baseball in the community and with his connections with area businesses he has helped the fair gain new sponsors such as Geico, Courtyard By Marriott and Wegmans. Bullock is playing a vital role in the five year upgrade plan. Residents of Fredericksburg and surrounding areas had an easier time this year learning about the fair and all of the new events and activities surrounding it. For the first time in several years local radio station Thunder 104.5 held live remotes inside the fairgrounds every afternoon and flyers were distributed in Valpak,s coupon mailer envelopes to inform the community. Improvements to the fair didn,t stop with the property; there was a whole new schedule of events that mixed old and new events for the right blend. Six pageants were held this year, which was nearly double from years past. Categories ranged from ages 11 months to 18 years old. Holly Richardson of Stafford commented on the pageants "we mostly just come to see the pageants so we will definitely be spending more time here this year". Current Miss America and former Miss Fredericksburg Fair pageant winner Caressa Cameron was on hand during the first weekend of the fair to participate with the pageants and meet with guests. Fair directors wanted to put the agricultural back into the fair this year. In the dairy barn there were 14 cows, a remarkable increase from three cows last year and the other animal barns were loaded with roosters, hens, chickens, goats, lambs, and hogs. Several animal shows were held including a youth livestock show, rabbit, land and water fowl shows. Also back this year were Sandy and Oscar, camels from Carolina Camel Rides. The animals loved all the attention they received while giving rides to fairgoers. A horse and several ponies were also available to be ridden. Hot Dog/Pig Racing from New Jersey was a new event that included four races at each event, two with pigs and two with dachshund dogs dressed as hot dogs. Ackmonsters Chainsaw Art dazzled guests with their skilled chainsaw works of art. One of the most popular pieces that was cut during the fair was the Virginia Tech Hokie Bird. Also new was the Kamp Kreatures puppet stage show. Kamp Kreatures is a children,s show that has provided entertainment to fairs and festivals for over 10 and has been seen on PBS and TBN. Miss Gail and Ranger Rex with their cast of characters such as Snores the Bear, Eager Beaver, Kettle the Possum, and many more woodland creatures provided a fast paced comedy show that was very interactive and crowd friendly. Recon Paintball made their Fredericksburg Fair debut this year, Recon provides the only mobile paintball arena in Virginia. They provide all the equipment for challengers to play and they have a special ball known as Reballs which is reusable soft rubber balls that hit people but doesn,t make a mess on clothes or property. NOJOES clown circus had as many adults and children laughing with their hilarious comedy. NOJOES is the only all clown circus in the United States and performs an average of 600 shows per year. Some of the things seen in this very crowd friendly show included fire juggling, tightrope walking and the use of a leaf blower and a roll of toilet paper that was belly busting fun. NOJOE and Toot, his trusty sidekick, are father and son and are currently the only father and son to have ever won back to back Clown of the Year Awards. NOJOE and his clown family may look like clowning around is their only family business but they also have a serious side. Their circus donates some of their proceeds from bookings to the NOJOES Foundation to help seriously injured or ill children and they also have a scholarship fund for aspiring clowns to attend clown training programs. NOJOES was such a popular show this year that organizers are already in the process of booking the act for next year. The Colgate Country Showdown was held at the Fredericksburg Fair this year. This competition is to find country music,s next super star. Contestants competed in the first round at a local bar and the best 16 competed at the fair during the second round. The winner of round two was a fairly new band, Waitin, on Sundown. They now advance to the next round at the Virginia State Fair in September. The 2004 Showdown Winner, Glen Shelton, performed during the contest and was one of the judges. Motorsports is always a popular event at this fair and this year was no exception. The Fair offered Micro Reality Stock Car Racing for the first time and Fame Racing of Delaware provided all the side by side high banked racing action that you could take with their 1/10 scale cars and steering wheels that pitted participants against each other in multiple tournaments throughout the week. Races were held several times a day during the fair, each race was an eight lap feature and winners received a trophy and were invited back at the end of the evening to participate in a championship race with the nightly winner gaining an entry into the Saturday Night Finale. Each car was sponsored by a local business that helped offset the cost of having FAME at the fair. If you needed something with a little more adrenaline rush you could have seen The Ives Brothers World Famous Balls of Steel Motorcycle Freestyle Stunt Show. These three brothers are the youngest motorcycle riders in the world. With their wild airborne antics and death defying tricks there wasn,t a dull moment in their show. And at the end of the show they brought out the scariest most death defying trick of all the Ball of Steel in which all three brothers rode their cycles to the brink of destruction in a steel circular cage. Tonny Petersen,s Hell Drivers put on a wild 70-minute show full of high speed precision driving maneuvers and other thrills and spills. Some of the stunts Tony and his group of fearless drivers performed were elevated ramp jumps, 180-degree reverse spins, and the tricky two wheel driving that he first perfected during his early driving and stunt career. If you like crashing and smashing you could have seen the R&R Productions Demolition Derbies, including the Powder Puff Derby. The Demolition Derbies have grown each year since they were brought back several years ago after a lengthy hiatus due to safety concerns. New fencing and R&R Productions safety rules have now made this one of the safest derbies in the nation. The Stafford Ruritan Club hosted their annual Truck and Tractor Pull and the always popular Mud Bog were both held on their traditional days and times. This year,s bog was more popular than usual due to mild temperatures and low humidity that fell upon the area on the day of the event. This year,s fair did come with a touch of sadness due to the Fredericksburg Fair losing one of its vital and most recognizable members in October of 2009. Richard Limerick was the longtime General Manager of the fair and in fact he moved his trailer home to the fairgrounds in 1966 so he could be closer to the fair and the business of the fair and continued to live there until his passing. I remember as a child always seeing Mr. Limerick roaming the midway or working on one of the many jobs or projects that he accomplished during his tenure at the fair. If you couldn,t find him roaming or riding his golf cart you were sure to find him mingling with fair guest as he was a popular person in the community. Mr. Limerick will be missed by all that got a chance to work or be associated with him during his lifetime at the fair. But as one showman once said "the show must go on" and that,s the way Richard Limerick would have wanted it to be. In Mr. Limerick,s honor the fair board has named the homemaker building the Richard Limerick Homemaking Building. The Fredericksburg Fair has survived through many tribulations in its 272 years and with new management in place there,s no telling how far this fair could go. The fair board is working tirelessly to upgrade and improve the fair and bring it back to the days of hot air balloon rides, stunt shows and George Jones and Tammy Wynette performances.

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