There aren't usually many tradition-shattering changes when it comes to the Arlington County Fair. As in previous editions, rides will be ridden and pigs will race — but the fun will start one day earlier.
"For the first time in the history of the fair, we are opening up the midway on Wednesday night," said Denise Roller, event manager for Arlington County Cultural Affairs.
From 5-9 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 15, the midway games, rides and concessions will be open for a sneak preview of the county fair, which runs through Sunday, Aug. 19. A joint venture between Arlington County and the all-volunteer Arlington County Fair board, the theme of this year's festival is "A Family of Neighbors."
Roller said additional hours of business are essential in order to continue bringing that family together with no admission fees.
"It’s one of two fairs in the state of Virginia — the other is the Salem County Fair — that still have free admission. And one way to continue to offer that free admission is to expand operating hours," she said.
The fair runs from 7-10 p.m. indoors and 5-10 outdoors on Thursday, Aug. 16; 10 a.m. - 9 p.m. indoors and 10 a.m.-10 p.m. outdoors on Friday, Aug. 17 and Saturday, Aug. 18; and 11 a.m. - 5 p.m. indoors and 11 a.m. - 10 p.m. outdoors on Sunday, Aug. 19. Visit www.arlingtoncountyfair.org for more information about times and schedules.
ALONG WITH the Wednesday hours, Roller said there are some other minor changes to this year's festivities.
Bike Arlington will sponsor complimentary valet parking for bicycles at the fair. "This is tied into the county's air initiative," said Roller.
The fair will have expanded children's and seniors' sections and activities, and has welcomed in a slew of new sponsors.
"The corporate community has been good to us," said Roller, who said Comcast will sponsor the entertainment stage while BB&T is the official bank for the event.
Entertainment at the fair includes for acts in the spotlight on the Friday and Saturday nights beginning at 7 p.m. On Friday, Rick Franklin and Friends perform Delta blues, followed by the island sounds of the Aloha Boys. On Saturday, Quintango, an Argentine chamber ensemble, performs before the R&B and funk group Soul'd Out hits the stage.
As in previous years, the fair will showcase another kind of artist as well: craftspeople and artisans from the Arlington art community.
This is the second year in which artists and craftspeople went through a jury process in order to select those who would have space at the county fair. "We wanted quality crafters, and some new crafters, at the fair, and a way to get more crafters from Arlington," said Roller.
"The goal is to make the event more reflective of Arlington. With that being one of the goals, we give Arlington-based businesses and organizations priority as far as being an exhibitor at the fair."