New owners: State Fair to promote agriculture, horses
The new operators of the State Fair of Virginia say they plan to promote the fair with an emphasis on agriculture and by stressing the importance of the Caroline County property by putting more focus on its horseracing legacy.
The Virginia Farm Bureau Federation and Tennessee-based Universal Fairs met publicly for the first time Thursday since announcing their new partnership earlier this month.
The two organizations will together own and operate the fair as well as other events at the Meadow Event Park throughout the year through a new entity called Commonwealth Fairs and Events LLC.
“We’ve never embarked on a venture like this, but we do not take this challenge lightly and we plan to make the fair a success,” said Virginia Farm Bureau Federation President Wayne Pryor. “Agriculture is the largest industry in Virginia and it has a story to tell and the State Fair of Virginia is an absolute perfect venue to tell that story.”
This year’s fair is scheduled for Sept. 28 through Oct. 7.
Todd Haymore, Virginia’s secretary of agriculture and forestry, said the partnership will ensure that “the 150-year tradition of a state fair continues, and that Virginia’s largest industry, agriculture, can continue to be woven into the fair.”
Commonwealth Fairs and Events plans to sponsor other happenings throughout the year, as well, and it hopes to revive and support efforts to build a horse museum on the fair site.
The Meadow Event Park is the birthplace of racing thoroughbreds Secretariat and Riva Ridge.
In attendance at the news conference was retired racing thoroughbred Covert Action, a grandson of Secretariat, who won the 1973 Triple Crown.
“We want people all over the nation to recognize the importance of this property and its legacy,” Pryor said.
Universal Fairs President Mark Lovell said he plans to boost equine events at The Meadow Event Park and is considering a celebration next year to mark the 40th anniversary of Secretariat’s Triple Crown win.
“We’re very excited about all the opportunities,” Lovell said. “We think you’re going to see great things over the next few years, so just hang on.”
Universal Fair’s other events include large fairs in Tennessee, Georgia and Washington state and a variety of boat and sporting shows and expos throughout the United States.
“Universal Fairs has extensive experience in running family-friendly, entertaining fairs, and Virginia Farm Bureau brings an exciting agricultural component to the mix,” Lovell said in an earlier statement. “We are new to Virginia, but we know how to run a fair. I think that by working together we can help strengthen Virginia’s agricultural stature and visibility through various shows, events and exhibits.”
Last year’s State Fair of Virginia set an attendance record, said Floyd Thomas, vice chairman of the Caroline County Board of Supervisors. “We look forward to a great fair again this year. This is a great place, and it is the home of the greatest racehorse ever.”