Heat can’t beat Orange County Fair crowd
BY DAN McFARLAND
With temperatures in the 90s, keeping cool seems to be the first order of business at this year’s Orange County Fair.
Despite a heat index that remained over the 100-degree mark for most of the evening, several hundred visitors enjoyed opening-night programs Thursday that ranged from a pretty animal costume contest to a clogging demonstration, parade and hog show.
In keeping with the county’s rural and agricultural character, Orange puts on an old-fashioned county fair in the truest sense: no midway carnival, no high-pressure selling activities.
Ben and Laura Loveday of Rhodesville are regular fair attendees, and were wandering through the various livestock exhibit tents with their daughters on opening night.
“Last year,” Laura Loveday said, “we hit the Louisa and Madison County fairs, as well as Orange.”
Their 4-year-old daughter, Tarran, was looking forward to performing in the Orange Cloggers performance later in the evening. In addition to their opening-night demonstration, the Cloggers also host the 6th annual Orange County Clogging Competition at 10 a.m. today.
Much of the fair activity may be agriculture based, but not all of it is traditional. In a small tent near the food stands, Merian Burkett of Lagniappe Alpaca Farm was spinning alpaca yarn on a wheel.
“I hear people say that spinning is becoming a lost art,” she said. “It is not. I must know 60 people who spin.”
And although many of the contestants displaying their skills in the exhibit tent were competing in such categories as farm products, garden produce and food preparation, not all competitors lived on farms.
Lake of the Woods resident Katie Yarrow won several blue ribbons for her knitting, and judges chose Orange County Commonwealth’s Attorney Diana Wheeler’s eye-catching shot of her pet dogs, Poco and Priss, for a top honor in the photography contest.
This could be the last year for the Orange County Fair in its present Montpelier Station venue, behind the old Montpelier visitors center on State Route 20. Emerson Corp., which owns Ridgid Products, recently donated property just outside the town of Orange to the fair board.
“There is a lot of infrastructure that goes into creating a fairgrounds,” said extension agent and fair board member Kaci Daniels, “but we are hoping next year’s fair will actually be held at the new grounds on Old Gordonsville Road. We are excited about finally having a home of our own.”
The three-day fair finishes up today. Gates open at 9 a.m. and close at 11 p.m.
This year, for the first time, Sunday was eliminated from the schedule, primarily because the event is planned and managed entirely by volunteers.
“It used to be, we ended up doing things Sunday night in the dark, which isn’t safe,” Daniels explained. “By eliminating Sunday from the schedule, it gives volunteers all day Sunday to get cleaned up and packed away, because most of us have to be back at work first thing Monday.”