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Family Friendly Farm Festival Focuses on Ag Education / Fun

At the annual Virginia Farm Festival, you can marvel over a fluffy alpaca; delight in an antique tractor show; and learn how garden crops grow.

You also will be able to watch a cornhole tournament and demolition derby, and listen to Richmond’s own Gone Country band.

The family-friendly festival will be held May 5 and 6 at The Meadow Event Park in Caroline County. Now in its third year, the event features several of the State Fair of Virginia’s most popular family attractions, including Young MacDonald’s Farm with animals like alpacas, chickens, goats and pigs. It also will include cow milking demonstrations by SouthLand Dairy.

Educational field trips for school groups will be offered May 5 from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. The festival opens Friday to the general public at 3 p.m. and will close at 10 p.m. On Saturday, the festival will be open to everyone from 11 a.m. until 10 p.m.

This year’s festival will be held in and around the 63,00-square-foot Farm Bureau Center exhibition hall so that “rain or shine,” the event will take place, said Marlene Jolliffe, executive director of the State Fair. “The past two years have presented us with weather challenges, so we thought it best to take advantage of the covered space the Farm Bureau Center provides.”

Guests will be able to park for free in a lot right behind the center and have the option of enjoying indoor and outdoor activities.

New this year is a culinary competition. Entrants are asked to submit a creative picnic dish by noon on Saturday. Judging will take place at 12:30 p.m., and winning entries will be decided based on taste, creativity, ease of preparation and presentation.

Advance registration is required, and the deadline to sign up is April 28. Registration forms can be found here: forms.gle/PH9Wa9Cp4NjVfT768.

Both days will feature a mix of agriculture-focused activities, musical entertainment, food, beverages and retail vendors. The festival aims to highlight planting season in Virginia, in advance of celebrating the harvest season during the State Fair, from Sept. 22 through Oct. 1.

“The Virginia Farm Festival is an entertaining event, but it also expands our mission of promoting agricultural education that we typically reserve for the State Fair,” Jolliffe noted. “This is a good blend of fun and agricultural education. We want visitors to recognize that the fair food they enjoy every year originated on a farm.”

Sarah Jane Thomsen, agriculture education manager for the fair, added that they are excited to kick off this year’s festival with the educational field trips. “They are a great way to increase our agricultural outreach to students who may have no other exposure to farming.”

During the festival, visitors can investigate Virginia State University’s Mobile Agriculture Education Unit, a trailer that interactively showcases Virginia’s largest private industry. Attendees also can see and pet farm animals, explore how food travels from farm to fork, savor some fair food favorites and watch live entertainment. Richmond-based Jonathan the Juggler will entertain audiences both days, with performances at 3:30, 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. Friday and 11:30 a.m., 1:30, 3:30 and 4:30 p.m. on Saturday. Judging for the antique farm and garden tractor show will take place at noon Saturday, followed by an antique tractor parade! The demolition derby will be held at 6 p.m. that evening.

Adults can enjoy assorted beverages while listening to the self-proclaimed “neotraditional country” band Gone Country at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday nights.

There also will be exhibits from a variety of agricultural commodity groups, and bounce houses, pedal tractors and pony rides for children.

Tickets go on sale April 3. For more information or to sign up for the cornhole tournament, visit virginiafarmfestival.org.

The Meadow Event Park in Caroline County is the birthplace of Secretariat and home to the State Fair of Virginia. It is operated by Virginia Farm Bureau Federation, which is committed to preserving Virginia’s rich agricultural heritage and ensuring that The Meadow thrives as a regional event and equine venue.

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