Food & fun at the Virginia State Fair

Festival Essentials

Where: Raceway Complex, Richmond, Virginia, USA
When: 17 days from mid- to late September
What happens: A celebration of Virginia farming and culture with food, music, and a demolition derby
Best dishes: 
Virginia ham with red-eye gravy, soybean doughnuts and deep-friend Oreos

Agriculture in Virginia

Virginia’s economy since early times has been based on agriculture. The earliest Virginians – Englishmen, Germans and Irish amongst others – soon found out what flourished best on their newly adopted land – with tobacco, pigs and peanuts all becoming nationally renowned for being made in Virginia.

Background to the State Fair of Virginia

What started in the early 1800s as a social gathering where pioneer farming families could get together to trade goods, swap farming tips, and see who had the biggest and best pumpkins developed into a huge annual event. The State Fair of Virginia is a chance for you – and 250,000 others – to sense and sample Virginia’s famous foods and experience its cultural heritage. As well as an annual event, the State Fair is a not-for-profit organisation – its mission is to celebrate Virginia’s roots in agriculture. The festival takes place annually for around seventeen days from the third week in September at the Raceway Complex in Richmond, Virginia.

Festival Food

The number one attraction is the food and there are numerous delicious dishes to try – even with low carb options – but this is solely a place for lovers of the flesh as one of the aims of the event is to promote the State’s red meat industry. Vegetarians beware: tasty chicken shish kebabs, shrimp cocktails, taco salads and wraps, and crab quesadillas may tempt you away from your beliefs. Or try the festival favourites: elephant ears (huge donuts), hillbilly corn, polish sausage, and chocolate-dipped cheesecake. At the many booths you can also sample local delights such as soybean doughnuts, Brunswick stew, and Virginia peanuts as well as proverbial junk food like deep fried Oreos and Twinkies. The fair’s signature dish to try isVirginian ham with red eye gravy, made from the blood dripping from the ham.

Animal Attractions

There’s plenty more to do here than just fill your tum. Animals are also prize draws here – see competing stunt dogs, a rooster-crowing contest, and costumed lambs on parade – dressed as stars like President Bush and, of course, Elvis. The top mammal attraction has to be Wayne Rosaire’s Royal Racing Pigs. Each performance features four races, starting with quick young porkers racing at full speed and ending with wide-body Vietnamese Pot Belly pigs. Place your bets on a winner – the loser turns up on the plate next year.

Demolition Derby

The festival sees a lot of big name pop and country music acts roll into town to entertain the crowds like Hank Williams Jnr. Another major festival event is the Demolition Derby. It does exactly what it says on the tin and the aim of a Derby is to demolish your opponents’ cars until you are the last one driving. In this race, just finishing in one piece is a major achievement. Visitors who want to experience their own thrills can try their hand at over 40 rides with names like Chaos, Scorpion, and Wild River – who could resist? Other thrill shows to watch include cowboy rodeo, motorbike and bike stunts, and lawn mower racing. Be there at 6pm every day for a colourful parade of marching bands, entertainers, celebrities, and dancing animals.

More Information

State Fair
P. O. Box 26805
Richmond, VA 23261
Phone (804) 569-3200 or call toll free (800) 588-3247

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