Virginia State Fair to be fully operated by Farm Bureau Federati - WSLS 10 NBC in Roanoke/Lynchburg Va

Virginia State Fair to be fully operated by Farm Bureau Federation

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Associated Press

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - The Virginia Farm Bureau Federation announced Friday it is parting ways with a Tennessee fair operator and will solely operate the State Fair of Virginia.

The partnership between the federation and Universal Fairs LLC was created in the months before the September 2012 exposition in Caroline County after the fair's previous owner went bankrupt under crushing debt. The Farm Bureau described the end of the brief partnership as mutual.

"Absolutely amicable," spokesman Greg Hicks said. "Everybody's happy, both parties are happy."

Terms of the partnership were never revealed, and Hicks said financials involving the split would remain private. "Both parties agreed they would not talk about it," he said.

In a statement issued by the Farm Bureau, Universal Fairs President Mark D. Lovell called the partnership rewarding. "I'm sure the State Fair of Virginia has a long and promising future," he said in the statement. Universal Fairs, based in Cordova, Tenn., said Lovell was not available for an interview Friday.

Universal purchased the fair property and The Meadow Event Park for $5.67 million at an auction in May 2012 and announced the partnership with the Farm Bureau about 70 days before the annual exhibition last September. Attendance suffered and some agricultural exhibitors pulled out because of uncertainty over the fair's future.

"We learned a lot and gained tremendous insight into how to operate a fair during 2012," Farm Bureau President Wayne F. Pryor said. "Now the pressure is fully on our shoulders."

Hicks acknowledged the Farm Bureau "probably initiated" the parting. He said the federation wants to expand the agricultural attractions of the fair.

"But that's not to take away from the other attractions and the midway. They will certainly continue to be very important," Hicks said.

The fair, which dates back 150 years, made a historic trip up Interstate 95 in 2009 when it move from Richmond to Doswell about 25 miles north to the birthplace of thoroughbred Secretariat, horse racing's Triple Crown winner in 1973. The site underwent nearly $100 million in improvements.

The State Fair of Virginia Inc. acquired the Meadow Farm property for $5.3 million, but the nonprofit was quickly swamped by debt and defaulted on about $80 million in financing from a group of creditors and was forced to liquidate.

The Farm Bureau claims more than 150,000 members in Virginia. Universal operates fairs in Tennessee, Georgia and the state of Washington, as well as other festivals and events around the U.S.

Hicks said the Farm Bureau will need some assistance operating the non-farm aspects of the fair. He said Universal could provide some consultation on those aspects.

The 2013 edition of the fair is scheduled for Sept. 27 through Oct. 6.

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