With just three days to go before the 64th annual Loudoun County Fair, Marilyn Jarvis can summon only one word to describe the flurry of activity as animals, carnival rides, trailers, hay bales, trucks and kids are moved to the fairgrounds in Leesburg. The word is: "CHAOTIC!"
Well, she said with a laugh as she dealt with last-minute details, don't say the word too loudly or--heaven forbid--put it in print because folks might be tempted to stay away. She knows that's unlikely, considering that the fair has drawn more than 11,000 people each year since 1994--outpacing fairs in neighboring counties with larger populations.
For Jarvis, who runs the county's 4-H program, there is a hefty list of things to do before dedication ceremonies Tuesday night and the fair's opening to the public Wednesday morning. It ranges from getting volunteers ready to judge fruits, vegetables and animals to having catalogues printed for the big Friday night livestock sale and making sure there are enough prize ribbons to go around.
"We've been planning for months," Jarvis said. "But there's always odds and ends left to do in the final days."
There are jumps to put up in the show ring. A barn to paint. Stalls to fill with hay. Animals to groom. And vegetables to pick.
The fair is the annual highlight of the summer that many families anticipate.
Take the Bramhalls.
Since May, P.J. and her three children have raised two steers and planted a vegetable garden of squash, tomatoes, pumpkins, green beans and sunflowers. Regarding their steers and their plants, the goal in the final days is to keep them big.
"We want our steers to come in right around 1,200 pounds each," said P.J. Bramhall. Her 9-year-old son, Jake, will be showing the animals in the ring and then selling one of them at the livestock sale.
Although his mother discouraged him from becoming emotionally attached to the steers, he admits he's a bit sad to know they will be slaughtered. But it is a business venture, as the money he earns will go to pay for feed, grooming and hauling costs of his animals--with a little profit left over.
By Tuesday, Bramhall has to get her whole crew--animals and kids--to the fairgrounds, plus help her 6-year-old daughter, Jessie, bake her zucchini bread for a contest.
"It's all about the spirit of competition," said Bramhall, who lives in Lovettsville. "I feel kind of proud to be participating in the fair and showing my kids what I did when I was a kid.
"We plant together, weed together, water and feed the animals," she said. "Now they get to see the fruits of their labor."
The When, What and Where of the Fair
The Loudoun County Fair is open 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. The midway, with rides and games, opens 6 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, 1 p.m. Saturday and 12:30 p.m. Sunday. Admission to the fair is $5 for adults, $3 for children 6 to 12, free for children 5 and younger. Senior citizens get in free Thursday.
The fairgrounds are on Dry Mill Road in Leesburg. From the east, take Route 7 west to Route 9 and follow the signs for the fair. From the west, take Route 7 east to Route 9.
* Wednesday's events include an English horse show at 10 a.m., a fashion review at 2 p.m., a sheep show at 4 p.m. and a hay bale toss at 8:30 p.m.
* Thursday's events include a Western horse show at 10 a.m., senior citizens' activities at noon, a steer show at 5 p.m. and a square dance demonstration at 6:30 p.m.
* Friday's events include rabbit and swine shows at 9 a.m., a heifer show at noon and a livestock auction at 7 p.m., followed by a kiss-a-pig contest.
* Saturday's events include a horseshoe competition at 9 a.m., African drumming at 11 a.m., a tug of war at 3:30 p.m., live music at 6 p.m. and a dog obedience demonstration at 7 p.m.
* Sunday's events include a parade of horse breeds at 10 a.m., a he-man competition at 11 a.m., an open pet show at 1 p.m., the parade of champions at 3 p.m. and an awards ceremony at 5 p.m.