History of the Fair
he first Chesterfield County Fair was held October 25-26, 1911, at what is now the Chesterfield government services complex encompassing the Mimms Loop and Lori Road areas. The concept for developing an agricultural fair originated with Senator John Benjamin Watkins (a co-founder of Watkins Nursery) who was selected as the Chesterfield County Fair Association’s first president, a position he held until his death in 1931. The Fair provided local farmers an opportunity to display the items they raised and a place to come together and get reacquainted with friends. Throughout our more than 100 year history, we have proudly continued this tradition. Our Arts & Crafts Building, built in 1998, is brimming to capacity each year with canned goods, flowers, vegetables, needlework and art work. Hundreds of items are entered for judging, just as before, and the goal is to win the Blue Ribbon.
The popularity of the Fair grew rapidly and space around the old courthouse was filled with exhibits and attractions. Food vendors would set up behind the old jail (still standing near the county museum) selling cold drinks out of a wash tub. Inmates could be heard hollering down at the customers waiting in line. As the population of the county grew, the space available for the Association to host the Fair became less and less. In 1989 the county designated the property across from L.C. Bird High School as the new fairgrounds and the Fair has been held there ever since. The Association just recently signed a new 20 year lease with the county for use of the fairgrounds.
Traveling to the Fair used to be done by horse and buggy. Families would pack lunches, set out to travel the 15 miles from Midlothian or Ettrick possibly, and arrive at the Fair with the children full of anticipation for a day filled with fun, games, food and general wide-eyed thrills. Once cars replaced the horse and buggy, parking at the Fair was handled by the Virginia State Police (c. 1940s). A policeman would take your keys and then park your car in an open field. Today parking is available at L. C. Bird High School with much additional space available behind the fairgrounds. Shuttle service takes patrons to and from the main grounds from the back lot.
Entertainment at the Fair has changed but the excitement has never waned. While we may not have three-legged races or seed-spitting contests anymore, we do have parades, pageants and rodeos, music galore, antique tractors, Heritage Village, and animal exhibits to name just a few attractions. The midway rides continue to be a big crowd-pleaser featuring all the rides that spin, twirl and make you scream! Musical entertainment has expanded from mostly country to now include pop, soul, gospel and oldies. And whether the year was 1911 or last year, enjoying the many food options is just as important as riding the Ferris wheel. Turkey legs, fried Oreos and funnel cakes make your experience complete.
Being assured of a place to host the Fair for the next 20 years, the Association partnered with the county in 2015 to repave the midway area and asphalt the walking paths around the fairgrounds. A new ticket booth and information booth were also part of our improvements. We will continue to look for ways to enhance the Fair and make the Chesterfield County Fair a tradition for many generations to come.