DOSWELL, Va. — The State Fair of Virginia’s 2018 attendance was 250,000 — the highest under the fair’s current owner, and the second-highest since it moved to The Meadow Event Park in 2009.
The fair reported 270,000 attendees in 2011. Last year’s attendance was just short of 250,000.
“We had near-perfect weather this year,” said Greg Hicks, vice president of communications for the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation, which became full owner of the fair in 2013. “The combination of that and ongoing improvements to the event created an appealing outing for fairgoers.”
Marlene Jolliffe, the fair’s executive director and vice president of operations for The Meadow Event Park, said food sales increased 5 percent over last year, and carnival sales increased 11 percent. “Our carnival and food gross sales were both again records for the State Fair. We continued to build upon our layout changes last year, and I think they proved a success,” she said. “It was a truly wonderful, smooth operational fair.”
For the second year in Harvest Landing, the Virginia 529 Kidway children’s amusement feature was situated on a spacious asphalt area in response to fairgoers who noted that gravel areas present a challenge to families using strollers.
The larger Midway Madness by Virginia Lottery was again located in the Festival Loop area, which gave customers a much shorter walking distance and better access to rides, food concessions and other entertainment. This year, based on customer feedback, it was spread out more, and the ride ticket sales area was reconfigured for ease of travel.
Other changes based on customer feedback included Blue Ribbon premium seating for concerts, VIP parking every day and Virginia’s Finest Sundays, which featured specialty Virginia foods. The fair also provided two special events tents, which housed the giant pumpkin and giant watermelon weigh-in, the second annual Blue Ribbon Craft Beer Festival and other happenings.
“We believe listening to our customers is what adds to our success and makes it such a great event every year,” Jolliffe said.
This year’s fair also brought an increase in livestock exhibitors and an overall increase in 4-H and FFA youth participants, as well as growth in youth arts and crafts entries.
“The State Fair of Virginia is a celebration that brings together the best of Virginia in one place,” Jolliffe said. “For 10 days, everyone can experience and honor who we are as a commonwealth. Our goal is for continued improvements and growth for our scholarship programs, which place thousands of dollars in the hands of talented youth so they may pursue higher education initiatives.”
The 2019 State Fair of Virginia will run Sept. 27 through Oct. 8 at The Meadow Event Park in Caroline County.
— Virginia Farm Bureau Federation