5.1: DC State Fair
DC State Fair Tent, by flickr user Mr. T in DC. When I was growing up in Georgia, we’d visit1 my grandmother in the Summer and one thing we’d always look forward to in the later Summer months was the local county fair. Mostly because it was impossible to ignore, even though it was a fair distance away, we could just see some of the rides from grandma’s house and the signs were always there when we drove around to run errands. I mostly remember the rides and attractions because that’s what my brother or cousins wanted to see, but one year we did walk past the agricultural area and saw that they sponsored the kinds of contests some more closely associate with a county fair–livestock, produce, home baking and canning were all represented.
Years later, living in DC, I’d still see ads for local county fairs or see local carnivals & rides set up in parking lots as I drove by on the interstate, but those were always in Maryland or Virginia, never DC. In fact, the words “State Fair” and “DC” were very unlikely to ever be associated in my mind… until now. Because later this month, the 2011 DC State Fair will be held on Saturday, August 27, from 10 AM to 6 PM at Columbia Heights Day. It aims to celebrate the home-grown talents of the District–gardeners, cooks, bakers, photographers, and artists.
DC State Fair found themselves in the crosshairs of 5.1 this week to answer some questions about the origins of the fair and what locals can expect to see this year.
1. How old is the DC State Fair? What was the initial inspiration for putting it all together?
The initial inspiration for DC State Fair was a post on Amelia’s blog, Gradually Greener, about entering her DC-grown tomatoes into a contest in Virginia. A few months of getting psyched about the idea of a community-focused agriculture and foodie competition while at DC Food Blogger Happy Hours led to the first DC State Fair meeting in July 2010–just weeks before the inaugural event.
2. When I mentioned the DC State Fair to someone, they said "It’s not really a State Fair without a ferris wheel!" While your focus is clearly on local crafters and gardeners, how do you respond to those that might be expecting something along the lines of a more traditional State Fair?
For now, to get the most state-fair-y feel, we decided to buy vendor space at the neighborhood community festival Columbia Heights Day, which organizes a dog show, has a petting zoo, a cupcake eating contest, and showcases a lot of organizations and businesses in the neighborhood and within DC.
3. Columbia Heights Day is hosting the DC State Fair again this year. Do you think that has limited the interest in contest submissions and volunteers due to its location? And do you look forward to being self-hosted some year to have a more District-wide appeal?
4. You’re partnering with Meridian Pint–during DC Beer Week–for your Homebrew Contest. How did that come about and have the contest categories changed much between this and last year?
5. The DC State Fair (at Columbia Heights Day) is just over a week away (August 27), do you still need volunteers and what kind of work should volunteers expect to be doing up to and on the day?
5.1 Have you had any ideas or resident submissions for new contest ideas? Will we ever get to see DC’s eaters showcase their stuff in a pie-eating competition someday?
We have had a lot of ideas for new contests, from our volunteers, ourselves, and the community. As we grow, we are modifying existing contests and developing new ones–although DC’s creative talents were out in full force last year, as seen in the amazing photographs, cupcakes, and all of our other entries, we hadn’t offered any crafting categories. We are this year, with Bike Accessory, DC Portrait, and Vegetable Sculpture, as well as a special prize that any of these crafts made with recycled content qualifies for. In the future, we will hopefully be just as expansive in our contest categories as the bigger State Fairs.
A big thanks to DC State Fair for their time and you can keep up with them at their website or subscribe to their newsletter. Columbia Heights Day is just 10 days away, I’ve never been and am really looking forward to it. I hope to see you there!2
1 And by “visit” I mean we were dumped there for most of the Summer. I still remember watching the trail of dust as my parents drove off, knowing that my sentence had just begun.†
2 You might even see your favorite blogger‡ judging a contest or two…
† Not that it was so bad, it’s just tough being away from your room, gadgets, games, books, etc. for weeks!
‡ I am your favorite, right? Don’t worry, none of those other bloggers have to know. This is just between us… and the internet.