The Fredericksburg Agriculture Fair was established in 1738 when the Virginia House of Burgess authorized, and directed, that "fairs should be held in Fredericksburg twice a year for the sale of cattle, provisions, goods, wares, and all kinds of merchandise". It is the oldest fair in Virginia and even the United States. In 2014 the Fair will be in its 276 year.
Entertainment was plentiful - 1752 - a Company of Comedians from the new Theatre of Williamsburg performed at the June Fredericksburg Fair. Horse racing was very popular in the early Fair Days and in 1751 a purse of 50 pistols was offered by Charles Colson of Long Ordinary on Caroline Street. By 1774, the Fredericksburg Jockey Club's race meets were seen during the June and October fairs. The Fredericksburg Agricultural Fair takes the place of the Harvest Season fairs of old.
There were no fairs in Fredericksburg from 1881-1886. The Fair was brought to life again in 1887 and by the turn of the century there were circuses, hot air balloons and thousands of entries.
As farmers struggled during the Depression, the tradition of the fair slipped. For 16 years, beginning in the mid 1920's the fair wasn't held.
In the late 1940's a group of farmers formed a fair association. The local Jaycees decided to help. They met every month but it kept on and nothing happened. Finally, Spotsylvania County farmer John Orrock said, "If we're going to have a fair, we've got to have someone to do it." J.E. (Gene) Rowell, who was a member of the Jaycees, and had been attending the meetings, stepped up to the plate. Rowell's experience with fairs was limited - once as a boy of 7 or 8 he'd been to one but that didn't stop him - so he had to start from scratch.
Planning began in 1948. Commercial space was sold under a 1,300 foot tent. A cowboy act and some other entertainment was brought in. Livestock and homemaking exhibits were arranged and thus, the current day's Fredericksburg Agricultural Fair was born. The tents were used to house the homemaking, arts & crafts, food concessions and commercial spaces.
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