Albemarle Fair Doubles in Awesomeness

Grandfather and Grandson on the Scrambler
I adore the Albemarle County Fair. It’s my favorite time of year, which is to say this time of year—its six-day run started this evening. There are livestock displays, dozens of competitions, rides, loads of wildly unhealthy foods, and musical acts. (Plus great people watching opportunities.) A short drive south of town on 29, it’s open from 4 PM-11 PM during the week, 10 AM-11 PM on Saturday, and 1 PM-6 PM on its closing day, Sunday. Admission is $7 for adults and $3 for kids (free for kids aged six and under).

My only complaint about the fair is that they somehow fail to attract the very people who would enjoy it the most—basically the folks who shop at farmers markets, want to raise chickens in their backyards, and are just starting to reap the benefits of this year’s tomato crop. My fellow Tech alumni appear to outnumber UVA grads, if clothing is any indicator. If accents are any indicator, attendees are mostly local. This is the year in which that audience should expand. A group named Backyard Revolution is providing free (with admission) classes in all sorts of Virginia homesteading skills: rainwater harvesting, orienteering, urban chicken keeping, arrowsmithing, seed saving, blacksmithing, building a batteau, knitting, composting, spinning, cider making, wall building, log cabin making, and dozens and dozens of other deeply cool things. I want to go to all of these things. There’s a dedicated area in the fair set aside for these things, with both classes (first come, first served) and displays that will remain up for the duration of the fair.

Visit the fair, check them out on Facebook, tell us about the highlights here, and take pictures & post them to Flickr

13 thoughts on “Albemarle Fair Doubles in Awesomeness”

  1. And, if your in the mood, there is an opportunity to weigh in on long-range transportation plans in the region at the fair. TJPDC will have a booth up with lots of information and different ways to give some more specific feedback on what you like or don’t like about rural transportation here.

  2. The old codger in the photo doesn’t exactly looked thrilled to be on “The Scrambler”. Can’t say that I blame him.

  3. What’s up with “child” being defined as 12 and under? I can’t send my 13 year old out to work, I must still send them to school, and if they mess up in some major way I’m liable for it. Granted that movie theatres define “children” the same way, so the fair isn’t out there on a limb with this definition. Getting my family of five into the fair & getting rides-for-one-price for three children leaves me $91 out of pocket & we haven’t bought a funnel cake yet.

  4. The old codger in the photo doesn’t exactly looked thrilled to be on “The Scrambler”.

    I took that a few years ago. His grandson was clearly really excited to be on the ride (and feeling cool in those shades), but the grandfather was just riding because his grandson wanted him to. Still, I got the sense that the old guy liked it, but he just didn’t want to let on.

    Getting my family of five into the fair & getting rides-for-one-price for three children leaves me $91 out of pocket & we haven’t bought a funnel cake yet.

    You might find it’s considerably cheaper without that rides-for-one-price thing, because that really is pretty expensive. I generally limit myself to two rides (though I am thirty years old :), but I appreciate that’s tougher to persuade your kids to stick to.

  5. They need volunteers with your amount of enthusiasm and expertise. Not that you don’t have a full plate or anything….

  6. I known what you mean. I ride “the scrambler” 8-5, five days a week. Some days I win, and some days the scrambler wins. The secret is to not let it get the best of you.

  7. I am a nerd for county fairs! I’ve been going to the fairs around here for four years now (since I moved to Cville) and am always shocked that I don’t run into anyone I know there.

    I have to say that I’m a bit miffed that The Scrambler has been missing for the last two years, though.

    By the way, I entered the photography contest last year because Waldo posted a reminder about it and I was so excited to win a ribbon that I called everyone back home in NYC and Boston to brag. Maybe being from a place that doesn’t have a fair like this makes me more excited about it…maybe people are taking it for granted.

  8. They need volunteers with your amount of enthusiasm and expertise.

    I was asked last year to show up to just a single planning meeting in November, and I couldn’t even manage that. I think I’m fit only for blogging. :)

  9. There’s a report about Albemarle County Fair attendance being down again. That’s really too bad, as it seems that there were some interesting additions to the fair this year, and they were trying to make some positive changes. Looks like they’ve gotten squeezed between the weather and the economy. I think the fair is pretty important as a local cultural event, and it make sme wonder what changes could be made to keep it going for future years?

  10. I’m sure that there was a very good reason for why they moved the date of the fair back a month (from early September—when I was a kid—to late July, IIRC), but I think that’s worth reconsidering now. It’s nice going to the fair on my birthday every year, but given that it tends strongly to be awfully hot and threatening to storm throughout the last week of July, I don’t think that week is working out.

    Backyard Revolution was an excellent addition, and there need to be much more of that sort of thing. But I don’t understand why they ghettoized it. My co-worker went to the fair to see those exhibits (among other things), and never even noticed those tents, located far away from everything else. My father- and sister-in-law went to the fair this weekend, and they didn’t notice those tents until they were leaving. There was also a paucity of livestock, maybe a 50% decrease over past years, and that was too bad to see.

    More emphasis on farming, on local agriculture. It’s frustrating to see how many of the food vendors are a) from far, far away b) using nothing local and c) selling wildly unhealthy foods. It’s great to show off animals, but let’s connect them to what people are actually eating, and sell the foods created using those animals’ outputs locally. Ditto for showing off the best specimens of local agriculture—that’s a beautiful North Garden tomato, now why can’t I buy some nice, cool North Garden gazpacho? Why not have a small farmer’s market, set up to be convenient to folks when they’re leaving? You’ve seen the goats, now buy some goat’s milk cheese.

    The musical acts mostly leave me cold. Which I don’t get. Charlottesville has brazillians of great musical acts, yet I virtually never see many popular local bands on the lineup. (13th Generation? Burnt Mill Band?) I’ve heard people suggesting that the fair get in big-name out-of-town country acts. I think they’d be much better served by spending the same amount of money to get two dozen local country, bluegrass, and gospel acts. (Maybe—dare I say it—rock bands?) Terri Allard, Hogwaller Ramblers, Jim Waive & the Young Divorcees all come to mind.

    Heck, get the kids behind CLAW to hold a match there! CLAW’s reunion gig on July 26 could have been two days later and at the county fair. That would have been great—classic county fair stuff.

    The folks behind the fair have budget limitations, and they had to adapt to what they knew would be a down year in a bad market. I get that. But I think some clever, free-to-cheap changes could really help. They made some really positive changes this year. I hope they continue in that direction.

  11. Great ideas, Waldo! You’ve outlined some good ways to make the fair more current, but still keep it accessible to the longtime fair-goers. Hope the organizers are reading this.

  12. I too was struck by the lack of anything I wanted to eat. I know, I know, it’s a county fair, but like Waldo says, it sure would be great to see some local–or at least semi-healthy–food there. And, ok, I know this is a whole additional can of worms and I don’t blame the organizers for sidestepping it altogether, but it sure would be nice to be able to buy a beer.

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