RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Attendees of this year's State Fair of Virginia will see a greater emphasis on livestock and crops as organizers increase the event's focus on agriculture.
New events include an educational display that teaches children how to raise crops and a guided tour of livestock competitions. Future Farmers of America and 4-H youth livestock competitions will return after a one-year absence.
The 10-day fair begins Friday at The Meadow Event Park in Caroline County under a new ownership structure. The Virginia Farm Bureau Federation, which previously owned 50 percent of the fair, is now its sole operator. The Farm Bureau acquired the remaining shares earlier this year and parted ways with Universal Fairs LLC, with which it had operated the fair in 2012.
"It was a huge relief when we were able to control it and really involve our people and our ideas and really to let the Farm Bureau run this thing the way we want," Farm Bureau spokesman Greg Hicks told the Richmond Times-Dispatch (http://bit.ly/1fsOuEV ).
"We can call the shots now on what we want to do, and that's the biggest thing," Hicks said.
Some of the new events aim "to help bridge the gap between the consumer and the farmer," he said.
"Farm Bureau is like agriculture on steroids," Hicks said.
There were an estimated 160,000 visits to the fair in 2012. Organizers expect the total to increase to 200,000 to 250,000 visits this year. To promote the fair, organizers have used social media and print and broadcast advertising. They also leased a school bus and traveled throughout the Greater Richmond area and as far north as Fredericksburg to promote the fair. Free tickets were distributed during the stops.
Wanda West, of King William County, said attending the fair is a longtime family tradition.
"We'll be there," West said.
Information from: Richmond Times-Dispatch, http://www.timesdispatch.com