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History of the Rockingham County Fair

By Dennis Cupp, General Manager, retired

The current Rockingham County Fair Association, Inc. is a not-for-profit organization and its first Fair was at the Linville Edom High School north of Harrisonburg on August 31-September 3, 1949. As told by the fair’s first president Charlie Wampler, the commercial exhibit chairman had the commercial exhibit booth partitions nailed to the gym floor to the great displeasure of the school principal. The first three-day fair in 1949 made a profit of approximately $130 and, as reported in the local Daily News Record, 5,000 were in attendance. Additional officers were: E.W. Roller, 1st Vice President of VoAg teachers at Broadway and Timberville; H. T. Acker, Sr, 2nd Vice President and 4-H leader from Port Republic; Eva Minix, 3rd Vice President and Virginia Cooperative Extension Home Demonstration Agent; Welty Holsinger, 4th Vice President and 4-H leaders from Pleasant Hill; T. L. Holoman, Secretary and Virginia Coopertaive Extension 4-H Agent; and P. A. “Dick” Carver, Treasurer, poultry business in Dayton, VA.

Many fairs, however, were hosted by various organizations and 4-H and FFA were held prior to this at a variety of sites in Harrisonburg, Lacey Springs, and Ed’s Park at Rawley Springs on the Whitesel-Sit lot (now the parking deck on Water Street), and at the present location of Memorial Stadium. 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 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 U.S. War Between the States. A currency-sized flyer that was printed featured one side that was a facsimile of a $100 Confederate bill while the opposite side was printed with an ad for the 1915 Rockingham County Fair. It promised “Up-to-date Exhibits, New Novelties and the Best Fair Ever.”

From 1950 -1951, the Rockingham County Fair was four days long; from 1952-1963, five days long; and since 1964, the fair has run for six days. The event is scheduled to begin on the third Monday of August each year.

In 1953, 22 acres of land was purchased from Sam Geil on Kratzer Road. In 1967, Mr. Geil sold the Fair Association the remainder of his farm making a total of 140 acres. In 1979 the Kratzer fairgrounds property was sold to R. R. Donnelley for $1.5 million dollars and 111 acres were purchased from Hazel Wenger and Dennis Early. The new property is one half mile south of Harrisonburg and it was here that several of the buildings were moved from the existing fairgrounds and new ones were also constructed. In 1980 the first fair was conducted at the new location and included a 21,000-square-foot exhibit hall; a barn complex with more than 80,000 square feet providing space for hundreds of hogs, sheep, goats, beef and dairy cattle; a farm museum; a building for horticulture, flowers and farm crop displays; and numerous food concession buildings operated by local civic organizations. A 3,200 square foot Virginia Poultry Industry Center including a museum and animal display facility have been added to the assets of the property.

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.”


American Red Cross

Belmont Ruritan Club

Bergton Ruritan Club

Bridgewater Rotary Club

Bridgewater Ruritan Club

Briery Branch Ruritan Club

Broadway Lions Club

Broadway/Timberville Chamber of Commerce

Broadway/Timberville Jaycees

Broadway/Timberville Ruritan Club

Clover Hill Ruritan Club

Cross Keys/Mill Creek Ruritan Club

Dayton American Legion Auxiliary

Dayton American Legion Post #277

Dayton Ruritan Club

Dayton/Bridgewater Ruritan Club

Elkton Lions Club

Elkton Ruritan Club

Fulks Run Ruritan Club

Girl Scouts

Grottoes Ruritan Club

Harrisonburg Exchange Club

Harrisonburg Kiwanis Club

Harrisonburg Lions Club

Harrisonburg Retail Merchants

Harrisonburg Rotary Club

Harrisonburg/Rockingham FCE

Harrisonburg/Rockingham Chamber of Commerce

Keezletown Ruritan Club

Linville/Edom Ruritan Club

McGaheysville Ruritan Club

Montezuma Ruritan Club

Mt. Crawford Ruritan Club

Port Republic Ruritan Club

Quota International – Harrisonburg Club

Rockingham County 4-H Clubs

Rockingham County Ag Teachers

Rockingham County Farm Bureau Assoc.

Rockingham County FFA Federation

Rockingham Young Farmers Assoc.

Shenandoah Valley Builders Assoc.

Shenandoah Valley Kennel Club

Shenandoah Valley Soil & Water Cons. Dist.

Singers Glen Ruritan Club

Stonewall Jackson Area Boy Scout Council

Tenth Legion/Mountain Valley Ruritan Club

Timberville Lions Club

Wayland Women’s Club

West Rockingham Ruritan Club


1948-1973 - Charles Wampler, Jr.

1974-1975 - Thurston J. Pfoutz

1976-1977 - Douglas L. Flory

1978-1979 - R. Carlton Cupp

1980-1981 - Melvin A. Miller

1982-1983 - Dan W. Brubaker

1984-1985 - Larry E. Garber

1986-1987 - William H. Bowman

1988-1989 - Doris M. Whitmore

1990-1991 - Carroll T. Yankey, Sr

1992-1993 - Nelson W. Sheets

1994-1995 - Charles E. Whetzel

1996-1997 - C.T. Yankey, Jr.

1998-1999 - William C. Simmonds

2000-2001 - Jack Wenger

2002-2003 - Kern Houff

2004-2005 - Tom Burgess

2006-2007 - Kenneth W. Hawkins

2008-2009 - Timothy P. Smiley

2010-2011 - Richard Chew

2012-2013 – Michael Gochenour

2014-2015 – Donnie Liskey

2016-2017 – Brian Carpenter

2018 - 2019 - Jeff Germroth

2020 - 2021 - Ron Williams

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