Spend a day at the fair

Published 6:11 pm Tuesday, September 12, 2017

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This is county fair week in Isle of Wight, and if you’re new to the community or, for some reason, haven’t been to the fair in recent years, I would urge you to spend some time there.

Isle of Wight’s county’s fair has become one of the most successful in Virginia. Whether its enjoying the carnival rides, listening to evening entertainment or watching young bull riders, there should be something of interest for you and your family.

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While there’s plenty of action at the fair, there are also some pretty extraordinary exhibits. The 4-H program, Master Gardeners and individual homemakers provide everything from a goat show to gardening tips and beautiful canned goods.

And of course, there’s the food. The fair is a time to forget the diet. Enjoy a funnel cake, a hotdog, barbecue, pork tenderloin and much more.

Beyond the action, the exhibits and the food, there is the simple act of attending an event that draws your neighbors and friends. Yes, the fair attracts large numbers of people from throughout the region, but it is also very much a gathering place for Isle of Wight residents, a place to see folks you haven’t seen in a while.

So, whether you are looking for an action-packed day or evening, or would just like to Weather Volunteers and county staff members who spend months planning for Isle of Wight signature entertainment event have reason to watch the weather each September. And this year is no exception. A week ago, the uncertainty of Hurricane Irma’s ultimate direction was a toss-up, and early this week there was the outside chance that Jose will swing toward the coast.

Anyone who’s been around for the past two decades can’t help but think of Hurricane Floyd, which hit the county in September 1999.

The wind that made Floyd a hurricane were largely spent by the time it arrived here, but the moisture laden storm devastated the county, nonetheless. It dumped about 18 inches of rain on land already soaked by a wetter than normal period. The Blackwater River flooded the community of Zuni. Hwy. 10 was washed out at Chuckatuck and Rushmere, and Hwy. 258 was cut just southwest of the Courthouse. That left northern Isle of Wight cut off from the rest of the county and Surry. One dirt road, which quickly became almost impassable, was open between the courthouse and Zuni.

All this happened just days before the fair was slated to open. At the fairgrounds, located in those days at the courthouse, tents blew over and a field used for parking became a sloppy mess waiting to happen.

Parks and Recreation officials, who have been responsible for the fair ever since it was resurrected in 1994, decided to press on with the event. Exhibits were scaled down and crowds were smaller than usual, but the fair went on and gave county residents a break from the cleanup that Floyd had made necessary.

In 2004, September rains actually caused the fair to be cancelled.

Wet conditions continued to plague the fair until the county completed installation of a drainage system at the Joel Bradshaw Fairgrounds. That improved the location immensely and eliminated most rainy weather problems.

A September hurricane could still play the devil with the mid-month fair, so Hurricane Irma was watched with concern last week. With its path away from Southeast Virginia, eyes have turned toward Jose, but all in all, it looks like a good year for the fair.