The Rockingham County Fair Association in Harrisonburg is renovating and expanding poultry facilities on the Fairgrounds this spring. The goal is to showcase the historic and economic importance of the poultry industry in the Shenandoah Valley as well as to provide new and expanded space for exhibitor show birds during the annual County Fair.
“This project has been a long time in the making,” says Jeff Ishee, GM for the Rockingham County Fair Association. The current poultry exhibit building was transported to its present-day site in 1980 after being used for numerous years at the old Kratzer Road site of the County Fair. “It’s time for a make-over,” emphasized Ishee, who added the renovated building and another, poultry-related new-construction building are scheduled to be completed in time for the 2014 County Fair. Attendance at the 2013 Fair set a new record at 88,885 people. The Rockingham County Fair has been recognized on numerous occasions as one of the top agricultural Fairs in North America and is dedicating 2014 as “The Year of the Farm Family.”
The Fair Association and various poultry companies with operations in Rockingham County developed a plan several months ago to recognize the historic and economic importance of the Shenandoah Valley poultry industry. “This is a big story and it needs to be told,” remarked poultry industry pioneer Charles Wampler, Jr. of Dayton. “I am pleased more people will learn about the significance of chicken and turkey production and the farm families involved.” The Wampler family was an integral part of the reason Rockingham County has become known around the world as the “Turkey Capital.” Wampler was also the 1st President of the Rockingham County Fair Association in 1949.
The poultry building used for more than 3 decades is undergoing a complete, top-to-bottom makeover and will contain interactive displays, historic artifacts, and educational exhibits. Two prominent statues (one chicken and one turkey) will welcome visitors at the main entrance. Another building for exhibiting live birds during the County Fair will be new construction from the ground up. It will be used to host other Fairgrounds events throughout the year.
Funding is being provided by private donors, poultry companies and agriculture-related interests. The Fair Association is also being considered for a grant from the Rural Rehabilitation Trust Fund administered by the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. The project has received endorsements from Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner, as well as the encouragement of local elected officials.
“Our mission statement requires us to promote agriculture and be a leader in the presentation and promotion of farm life and food production,” says Fair Association President Don Liskey of Cross Keys. “This is a win-win situation for the Fair and the poultry industry. Visitors to the Fair will learn all about the importance of chicken and turkey production here in the Shenandoah Valley.”