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Augusta County Fair has a long history
Rosedale Attractions helped turn fair around
By Robert and Lisa Limerick
The Augusta County Fair recently wrapped up this year,s edition that ran from August 10-14 at Expoland in Fishersville Virginia. This year,s fair theme was "If Its Good Enough for Lee- Its Good Enough for me". The theme refers to the 1868 appearance of General Robert E. Lee, former Confederate Army Commander, who was on hand to judge several special events including a ladies archery contest. That first fair at Gypsy Hill Park had 8,000 guests and most were in awe that someone of Lee,s status would deign to appear at the event. Several contests were held to promote this slogan including a student art contest to design the front cover of the fair,s program.
During the fair we had a chance to talk to Augusta Fair President Sonny Balsley about the fair and some of the exciting events at the fair . Attendance at the fair this year had been up the first day and down slightly the second day. Balsley felt that overall attendance would be up this year and contributing to the increase would be the fair board deciding to switch the antique tractor pull date with the demolition derby. The demolition derby was always held on Wednesday night of the fair and this year it moved to Saturday in the hopes of drawing more people to the derby and the midway on Saturday.
Fair president Balsley noted some of the new events for fairgoers to enjoy this year were helicopter rides, the Victoria Circus, and Hot Dog/Pig Racing. Passengers could strap aboard a real helicopter and fly with an experienced pilot around the fairgrounds and surrounding area getting breathtaking views of the midway and the Blue Ridge Mountains. The Victoria Circus put on amazing shows for fairgoers, tight rope walking isn,t enough for this group, they also jump rope while tightrope walking which provides a spectacular show for the audience. Hot Dog/ Pig Racing provided laughter and excitement with their fast running pigs and their hot dog costumed racing dachshund dogs.
Other events included the popular and funny children,s show Agricadabra, the Great American Disc Dog Show, Chainsaw Chix, and a Wildlife show presented by the Wildlife Center of Virginia. Agricadabra mixes magic and comedy while teaching agriculture and science. The high-flying, tail-wagging fun of the Great American Disc Dog Show wowed fairgoers of all ages with their amazing tricks and skills, Tracey Spencer of Roanoke quipped "these dogs are amazing at what they do, we cant even get our dog trained well enough to make outside". Chainsaw Chix was a group of ladies that have amazing technique and skill using only basic hardware store chainsaws. During the visit the biggest crowds were huddled around the chainsaw shows. Fair President Balsley said that all attractions were big draws and that if the attraction was successful they would try to book them for next year,s fair before they left the grounds.
A live Civil War encampment with over 240 re-enactors was held at the fair. The area of Virginia where the fair is held played a major role in the Civil War and Augusta County is trying to recapture some of that history. During the event there were battle recreations, a live camp to display soldiers living quarters and a war time first aid tent full of war equipment and medicines that would have been used during those battles. Joan Everly of Fishersville stated that "this is an important part of history that today is sometimes forgotten and that,s why I brought my kids to enjoy the fair but mainly to see history up close and personal".
This year,s Augusta County Fair was dedicated to the Fire and Rescue agencies of Augusta County. With that dedication there were several events being hosted and held by the local departments. For the first time Bingo was held in the exhibit hall and a different fire or rescue department hosted it nightly. Cards were a quarter each and the winner received half the take for most games. There was an extrication demonstration with rescue crews removing "injured" passengers out of a wrecked vehicle using their tools of the trade and a Pegasus helicopter landed to transport "patients" to the hospital. Another new event held by the local rescue agencies was a Fire truck pull. Teams of five donated 100 dollars and the first team to pull the truck 12 feet the fastest won half the money with the other half going to charity.
Motor sports were popular at this event as they are at most fairs. Augusta County held several tractor pulls including a scale model sized remote controlled one for kids. One night motor cross was held at the track area and had all the hi-jumps and twists and turns as the ones on television. The final night of the fair led guests to the track to see Stoney Roberts Demolition Derby and they were not let down by the excitement and thrills provided by the derby. Balsley declared that "there,s more here for the people if they just come out".
The Augusta County Fairs Midway was provided by Rosedale Attractions of Maryland. They had eighteen rides, thirteen games, and several food trailers on hand for the event. Some of the rides included the Expo Wheel, Merry Go Round, dark ride the Tomb of Doom, Tornado, and the Rock N Rol. Kids rides included the Crocs, Boats, Pony Carts, the Cycles, Dizzy Dragons plus many more. Augusta County Fair President Sonny Balsley acknowledged that the fair took off four years ago because of Rosedale Attractions owner Tom Gaylin. "They really helped turn this fair around", Balsley said.