Greene County Fair gets a reprieve

By Susan Gibbs

After nearly five years on pins and needles and with one year left to go the Greene County Fair Association has renewed its lease on the site it has occupied on Route 230 in Stanardsville for going on two decades.

Due to life changes, the site’s leaseholder had decided not to renew, but had given the Association plenty of notice, ample time to find a new space. But no one stepped forward, the leaseholder had a change of heart, and the Fair will go on.

“We’ve renewed the lease for five years through 2019,” says Fair Association Vice-president Van Bowen. “At this time we are no longer looking for a new site, as we hope to continue renewing the current lease in five-year increments.”

The Fair is one of Greene County’s largest draws, attracting between 12,000 and 16,000 patrons each year – and one of its largest fundraisers.

“We get tourists from in state and out of state,” says Fair Association Board Member Marie Durrer. “People who grew up here and then left come back to make a reunion out of it.” But those “reunions” aren’t just between people who have left and come back: “I see county people at the Fair that I haven’t seen all year long,” Durrer smiles.

Indeed.

Fairs are country traditions that have endured for 200 years – since a New England farmer organized the first in Pittsfield, Massachusetts in September 1811.  This first was more than just an exhibit of animals; it was a competition, with prizes given for the best of oxen, cattle, swine and sheep.

By 1819 most counties in New England had organized their own agricultural societies and the movement was spreading into the other states. Entertainment was becoming an important element of fairs, and boys and girls were being encouraged to exhibit entries. 4-H members would begin exhibiting in the early 20th century, and continue to do so today – despite the diminishing presence of traditional agriculture.

The core elements of those early fairs are still at the heart of the agricultural fair in North America – and in Greene County — today. Competition for the best agricultural and domestic products of the county provides an opportunity for the community to come together, to share and to learn.

Last year the fair here in Greene County hosted a carnival provided by Rosedale Attractions & Shows; nightly music by one band or another, including  the Bill Yates& Country Gentlemen Tribute Band, Country Poor Bluegrass Band, The Deanes Country Bluegrass Band, Mark Templeton & Pocket Change, MD Mallory & Charlottesville Grass, Mill Run Bluegrass Band, and The Virginia Ramblers.

The Little Roy Lewis & Lizzy Show performed, along with Greene County’s own Hi-Horse Cloggers.

Staples Safari – featuring animals that, for one reason or another “are not able to be returned to the wild,” according to Bowman – was there with an exotic animal show and a petting zoo. Walking horses performed and cattle, sheep, swine, rabbits and poultry were exhibited.

The exhibition building was filled with arts, crafts, produce, canned goods, and educational displays.

There were livestock, silent and other auctions, horseshoe contests, pie-eating contests, corn and water balloon tosses, sack races, three-legged races, pedal tractor contests, hula hoop contests, an obstacle course to be maneuvered, and more.

The Fair was the site of an antique tractor show and a car show, and Virginia Cooperative Extension hosted a Local Agriculture Night, a Families & Consumer Services Night, and a Master Gardener Night.

There was a reception for livestock buyers, a pet club hospitality tent, and a kids’ tent.

And of course there was food – lots of it, all from “local vendors,” says Durrer. “We want our local people to make the money.”

As a result, the Fair is a – if not the — major source of income for many local organizations, such as the local volunteer fire departments, and emergency services, as well as churches.

“The Fair needs the support of the community,” says Durrer, “not just so it can keep going, but because it is such an important fundraiser for local organizations.”

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