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HISTORY

Newspaper article from 1949.
Newspaper article from 1949. 

The current Rockingham County Fair Association, Inc. is a not-for-profit organization and held its first Fair at the Linville Edom High School north of Harrisonburg in 1949. As told by the Fair first president Charlie Wampler, the commercial exhibit chairman had the commercial exhibit booth partitions nailed to the gym floor to get the great displeasure of the school principal. The first three day fair in 1949 made a profit of approximately $130 and as reported in local Daily News Record newspaper 5,000 were in attendance. Additional officers were: E. W. Roller, 1st VP, VoAg teachers at Broadway and Timberville; H. T. Acker, Sr., 2nd VP, 4-H Leader from Port Republic; Eva Minx, 3rd VP, Virginia Cooperative Extension Home Demonstration Agent; Welty Holsinger, 4th VP, 4-H Leader from Pleasant Hill; T.L. Holoman, Sec., Virginia Cooperative Extension 4-H Agent; P. A. “Dick” Carver, Treas. Was in the poultry business, Dayton, VA

Many fairs, however, hosted by various organizations and 4-H and FFA were held prior to this at variety sites in Harrisonburg, Lacey Springs and Ed’s Park at Rawley Springs. One archived news article indicates that the “First Annual County Fair at Rockingham” was conducted in 1891. This Fair advertised Jousting, Good Music, and a Grand Balloon Ascension” where two daredevils ascended to 8,000 feet and then parachuted back to earth in “the most daring and thrilling act ever undertaken by an aeronaut.” In 1915, the Fair organization distributed advertising flyers throughout the county that was recognizing the 50th anniversary of the conclusion of the U.S. War between the States. A currency-sized flyer that was printed on one side a facsimile of a $100 Confederate bill while the opposite side was printed with ad for the 1915 Rockingham County Fair. It promised “Up-to-date-Exhibits, New Novelties and the best Fair Ever.”

The fair is currently half one half mile south of Harrisonburg city limits on Us Rd. 11 since 1980. In 1953 Land was purchased on Kratzer Road just north of Harrisonburg. The fair was then moved after three years from Linville Edom High School. In 1959 the fairgrounds were sold to R. R. Donnelly for 1.5 million dollars. Fam land was purchased from Hazel Wenger and Dennis Early and buildings were moved from the existing fairgrounds and new ones were constructed. The fair opened at the new grounds in 1980. The south U.S. Route 11 site there is 111 acers of land including a 21,000-square-foot exhibit hall; a barn complex with more than 80,000 square feet under contiguous roof, which provides room for hundreds of hogs, sheep, goats, beef, and dairy cattle; the Virginia Poultry Industry Center, a 3,200 sq. ft. all weather museum building for poultry/rabbit exhibits; numerous food concessions buildings run by local civic organizations; and a pavilion for contests of skill by the local Vo Tech School.

The Rockingham County Fair is recognized as one of the leading agricultural Fairs. The International Association of Fairs and Expositions has awarded the Fair 1st place for approximately 20 years with the “Overall Program” for Competitive Agricultural Exhibitors.

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