Trends come and go, and the options for entertainment provided by today’s high-tech devices were inconceivable just decades ago. But, throughout time and generations, the energy and enchantment of the county fair has remained as strong as ever. This weekend, the folks of Stafford invite all families in the area to experience the joys and thrills of the Stafford County Agricultural and Homemaking Fair, featuring all the traditional favorites—from pig races to the adrenaline-fueled Demolition Derby—as well as some new attractions.
“The Stafford Fair was first held in 1922. We revived it in 2010 after a 50-year hiatus and try to add new attractions every year,” said Gordon Shelton, a lifelong resident of the county who is coordinating the events and exhibits. “The fair has become a tradition for many families. You may see a couple strolling the grounds and sharing a cotton candy who are celebrating their 50th anniversary and recalling their first date at the fair! Some couples may reminisce about the days when their now-grown children were eager to pet a rabbit or ride the Scrambler, as others enjoy their grandchildren’s excitement as they explore the fair’s offerings.”
One perennial favorite feature is the pig race, where competitors in series of heats run through chutes to claim the prize of a cookie at the end. “Three or four pigs will compete in a run and they’ll have numbers or names on their sides so folks can cheer for their favorite,” said Shelton.
Motorsports will be one of this year’s highlights. The roar of excited cheers will resound through the crowd as cars speed through the arena of the Demolition Derby (including entrants in a ladies class) and contestants in the Championship Truck and Tractor Pull vie for trophies. Antique tractors will compete and flex the muscle of yesteryear’s vehicles—one of which will be on display for visitors to explore or take the opportunity for a photo op.
“Kids will want to get their battery-powered cars ready for our Power Wheels Derby, which is a new feature this year,” said Shelton. The young drivers will have balloons fastened to the front and rear bumpers of their little vehicles and will try to pop the others’ as they compete to see which one will claim the trophy as the winner with at least one balloon intact. The derby will be held at 7 p.m. Friday and entrants should register by 6 p.m.
The fair will also include, of course, the longstanding favorites of carnival rides and games as well as pony rides and a petting zoo. Members of the county’s Feathers and Fur 4H Club will showcase domestic animals, ranging from rabbits and chickens to the occasional goat or donkey. The club will also present the rabbit show, in which entrants will be judged for their appearance.
“All the rabbits have different personalities,” said Shelton. “Some are really laid-back and friendly. Last year, we had one rabbit that weighed about 35 pounds. It was unbelievable how big it was!”
Throughout the festivities, the aromas of corn dogs, funnel cakes, popcorn and chicken-on-a-stick will waft through the air. Entertainment will be featured each day, led by Wesley Spangler from Nashville. In addition, the fair will feature a spectrum of displays of vendors’ crafts.
Perhaps the heart of the event is the homemaking contest, where entrants in a variety of age cohorts can exhibit their prized canned and baked goods, arts and crafts, flowers, and even eggs.
“If you’re wondering who makes the best homemade apple pie in the region, you can find out in this competition,” said Shelton. “This part of the fair goes back to the very earliest ones in America, where farmers would show off their prized animals and homemakers would wage a friendly war over who was queen (or king) of the kitchen and garden.”
Entry forms for this event can be accessed online or at the site of the exhibit. Entries are open to all ages and must be dropped off at the Homemaking building on Thursday from noon to 6 p.m. or Friday from noon to 3 p.m.
In addition, this year’s fair features a kids’ favorite—Touch a Truck—writ large. Fire and Rescue and Sheriff’s department vehicles will be on display each day, and, at scheduled times, presentations and demonstrations will be given highlighting the roles of the Jaws of Life rescue equipment and drones.
“Children may have a first-time experience at the fair that they will remember throughout their lives. And the wonderful thing is that admission and parking are free of charge!” said Maureen Fitzgibbons, who has volunteered to help with the event since 2010.
“This can be a bonding experience for families and a memory-maker that may spark many conversations and recollections. People might look at an old photo and explain that it was taken when they won a ribbon or a trophy at the fair, recalling those memorable moments and reclaiming ‘bragging rights’!” said Shelton.