Extra efforts to improve its animal exhibits led to the Surry County Agricultural Fair receiving an award during a state convention held this past weekend in Durham.
The annual gathering of the North Carolina Association of Agricultural Fairs at the Sheraton Imperial Hotel was attended by about 250 people representing more than 30 agricultural fairs around the state. Along with workshops and other activities that were part of the three-day convention, a program was held to honor those excelling in the fair industry.
Officials with the local event brought home an Innovation Award for 2017, which recognizes unique approaches taken to enhance the fair-going experience. In the case of the Surry County event, now in its 71st year, this was focused on its animal exhibits — a key aspect of an “agricultural” fair.
After a period of decline for that component, which includes livestock-judging competitions in such categories as beef/dairy cattle, swine, sheep, goats, chicken and rabbits, a push was made to upgrade this attraction especially popular in farm-rich Surry County.
“We made a lot of improvements,” Katherine Thorpe, the fair’s co-manager and agricultural coordinator, said of facility improvements to the animal exhibit area at Veterans Memorial Park in Mount Airy where the annual event is held. It includes a large barn-like structure containing holding pens and other fixtures to accommodate those showing cattle and additional animals.
Thorpe credited Jake and Chad Hooker of HHH Farms in Mount Airy for playing a key role in the facility improvements, which included new cattle wash stations which help owners prepare animals for judging. The Hookers “did a lot of hands-on hard work to help improve our cattle and farm animal barn area for the exhibit show,” she explained.
The fair official said the entire effort was aimed at returning the exhibits to prominence, which led to increased participation by animal owners for the last fair in September.
Thorpe said it was special to have that success recognized during the annual convention of the North Carolina Association of Agricultural Fairs.
“It was really something for us,” she said of the fair sponsors, which include the local Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion posts and their auxiliaries, along with Veterans Memorial Park Inc.
The local contingent attending the weekend convention also included Fair Manager Michael Thorpe and fair board members David Raborn of the VFW and Anna Pruitt of the American Legion Auxiliary.
“This was a great honor for our smaller Mount Airy area,” Katherine Thorpe commented.
She added that the improvements to the animal component are part of an ongoing campaign to enhance the Surry County Agricultural Fair as a whole.
This is also evident with the presence of Powers and Thomas Midway Entertainment, based in Wilmington, which for the past two years has provided rides and other attractions for the local fair.
“There are a lot nicer rides than we had years ago,” Thorpe said of the “state of the art” and wide variety of offerings by Powers and Thomas.
“We’re looking forward to improving our fairgrounds even more.”
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.