Northern Virginia residents will have a chance to sample some of the area's finest homemade food and view prize livestock in a series of good old-fashioned county fairs scheduled for this month.
The regional Prince William County Fair, based in Manassas, will run Aug. 12 to 20. Smaller fairs will run in Fairfax County this Saturday and Sunday; Loudoun County from Tuesday to Aug. 13 and Fauquier County on Aug. 11 and 12.
"A fair is a great chance for the GS 11 in suburban Arlington to show his kids the kind of goats he raised in Iowa," said Prince William fair spokesman Red Shipley, a former Alexandria disc jockey. "It's also looked forward to by the people in the agricultural community. These competitions are quite spirited."
The 34th annual Prince William Fair will be held at the fairgrounds on Rte. 234, a mile east of Manassas.
Tickets are $5 general admission for adults and children and $3 for senior citizens. Proceeds will go toward next year's production of the fair, which is sponsored by The Veteran's Farm Club.
Shipley said the highlight of the annual fair used to be the crowning of Miss Prince William County Fair, scheduled this year for the night of Aug. 14. But now the fair boasts all-star wrestling, auto thrill shows and concerts. Singer Sonny James and the Southern Gentlemen will close the fair this year with a concert at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 20.
During the day there will be exhibitions and judging of baked goods, produce, sewing, flowers and the staples of any country fair--sheep, cows, swine, horses, goats, rabbits and chickens.
For those with more domesticated animals, there will be a pet show Aug. 13. And for those with adorable children, there will be a baby contest Aug. 12.
The general-admission charge will allow fairgoers unlimited access to a series of carnival rides to be set up on the fairgrounds.
Shipley said there will be plenty of free parking, and the grandstand shows and concerts are free as well. The fair will open at noon each day and the carnival rides at 2 p.m.
Admission is free to the Fairfax County Fair, which will be held in Frying Pan Park off Rte. 7.
Sponsored by local 4-H clubs, the fair will feature farm exhibits and an arts and crafts show. Livestock, horses and poultry raised by 4-H members will be judged throughout the two days and a general admission pet show is scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday.
A celebrity auction of such items as a T-shirt signed by Burt Reynolds and a five-day vacation at the MGM Grand Hotel in Reno, Nev., is scheduled for noon Saturday.
The Fairfax County Extension Homemakers will run a country store at the fair selling baked goods, vegetables, cheese and cookbooks.
The Loudoun County Fair is a traditional county fair, said Barbara Tulip, a spokeswoman for the Loudoun County 4-H clubs, which sponsor the event. "Some people think we should get a merry-go-round, but that just hasn't been the tradition."
Tulip said most of the proceeds from the fair will go to the county 4-H organization, which owns and maintains the fairgrounds. However, youths who sell their baked goods, livestock or vegetables will keep the money.
Although the fair will feature competition among 4-H participants and members of Future Farmers of America, Tulip said all county residents were invited to enter special open classes in most categories, including baked and canned goods, livestock, dairy products and vegetables.
A farmers' market has been scheduled for Aug. 13 for those who would like to sell their own produce.
Other highlights include the animal/owner look-alike contest (7 p.m. Aug. 11), the champion cake auction and dance (7 p.m. Aug. 10), mule jumping and racing and a border collie demonstration (10:30 and 11:30 a.m. Aug. 13) and the crowd-drawing livestock sale (7 p.m. Aug. 12).
Some of the champion prize winners have drawn large sale prices in the past, Tulip said. A gallon of milk from the champion dairy cow was auctioned for $1,000 last year, and Tulip said area grocers often buy the champion livestock at above-market prices.
Admission for the fair is $5 for adults and $1.50 for children age 6 to 14. Daily admission is $1.50 for adults and 50 cents for children. Parking is abundant at the fairgrounds and free.
To get to the Loudoun County Fair, take the Rte. 9 exit off Rte. 7 and instead of turning north onto Rte. 9 take a left at the sign that says "Fairgrounds."
Anyone who would like to enter something in a contest should show up between 10 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Aug. 9. For more information, call the Virginia Polytechnic Institute Extension Service Office in Leesburg at 777-0373.
The site of the Fauquier County Junior Fair will be at Rte. 709 and Rte. 55, said Ruth Beach of the county extension office.
The arts and crafts contests are open to all, but the livestock, poultry and produce categories are reserved for members of the 4-H Club and the Future Farmers of America, which are sponsoring the event.
Beach said admission is free to the fair, which has been held annually for 20 years.