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Saturday, April 23, 2011

Shenandoah County preps for 94th edition of fair

New website, nostalgia part of campaign to attract new visitors


By Preston Knight - pknight@nvdaily.com

Apr. 23, 2011

WOODSTOCK, VA -- Smoke billows out from under the car's hood to the delight of a capacity grandstand crowd witnessing the demolition derby at the Shenandoah County Fair.
The year could be any. The black and white picture leaves you guessing. But some things, like the carnage of car body parts, are timeless about the week-long event, and organizers are now trying to push that point across.
At 94 years, the county fair is the longest-running such event in the Shenandoah Valley, and the time has come to use that to entice more people through the gates, Fair Manager Dean Morgan said. The campaign began a couple of weeks ago with the introduction of a revamped www.shencofair.com, which includes a "Days Gone By" photo gallery with images of things such as the demolition derby, and will continue as officials refer to the event as the "Great" Shenandoah County Fair, a name lifted from a 1924 newspaper.
The Sept. 5, 1924, paper, which serves as the backdrop of the fair's new website, touts "Four Big Days Four Glorious Nights," "Unrivaled Agricultural Display" and "Excelled By None Equalled By Few."
"So many things parallel what is still relevant today," Morgan said.
The fair, of course, goes beyond four days now, and the price of admission is not quite the 50 cents it was in its debut. This year's fair will run from Aug. 26 to Sept. 3, and the entertainment lineup includes REO Speedwagon, Luke Bryan and the Roots & Boots Tour consisting of Aaron Tippin, Joe Diffie and Sammy Kershaw. There are also more free activities, Morgan said.
Building on nostalgia, he said organizers are trying to put exhibits together to reflect fairs of years past. Ideas include old fair attire or memorabilia.
"We'll continue to play on that theme," Morgan said.
Organizers attended a Virginia Association of Fairs event and began seeing what other officials did. The question of the oldest fair came up. Morgan said upon returning to Woodstock, the 1924 newspaper was discovered, and research revealed that the local event was the oldest in the region.
The timing was right, he said, because the website needed a change.
"We took that theme, built on that, sort of made it the background of the website," Morgan said. "It has been appealing for people. We're getting positive feedback."None more so than the old pictures.
"Now people are chiming in on Facebook, 'That's my grandpa,'" Morgan said. "We'd love to identify them all."

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