For Countless Residents, Summer is the Prince William County Fair

By Posted on Aug 03 2019 | By

What are your most enduring memories? Graduation? Marriage? Children? Grandchildren? Oh, or county fairs?

No event better symbolizes summer than a fair. It’s a reflection of everything that can bring joy to people’s lives.

Who hasn’t caught a glimpse of a young lass tending her dairy cow while waiting for the judges to render (hopefully) a blue-ribbon decision? Then there’s the thrill rides, games of skill, demolition derbies, monster truck competitions, live musical entertainment, and food galore, including cotton candy.

Seemingly every attendee is either smiling, laughing, or possessing a satisfied expression. Fairgrounds are joy-filled grounds.

One the largest and best-organized fairs in the Old Dominion, the Prince William County Fair will raise its curtain for the 70th year on August 9 at 10624 Dumfries Road in Manassas.

Everything a fair can offer 17,000 fun seekers will be in play until the gates close on August 17.

So how does an extravaganza like the Prince William County Fair come about?

The volunteer-driven performance is passion in action and owned by the Prince William Veterans Farm Club. One of the few paid positions is its director of business operations, Diane Burke. The “Queen of the Fair” earned her bona fides through years of active participation.

“I started attending the fair from the time I was a baby,” says Diane, adding that the fair was their family vacation spot. “I was involved in it with my brothers and sisters and showed cows and pigs.

“My father worked for Northern Virginia Electric. He’d bring his crew out, and they would hang the lights for the fair and take them down when it was over.”

As the years rolled by, Diane’s participation and responsibilities grew. As the mother of a son and daughter, it continued to be a family affair with her own family participating. One of the volunteer highlights of her work today is managing the baby contest.

Over 100 babies are entered annually in two age groups: 9–18 months and 18–36 months.

The tikes parade down the “runway,” smiling and flashing their best personalities at the judges. The winners are crowned the Prince and Princess of the fair. “Among the prizes is a loving cup,” Diane says with a laugh. “But for the winning parents, it’s mostly about bragging rights.”

With the passage of time, the emphasis on livestock exhibition has faded as the county has become more suburban than rural. As a result, many of the youth activities today are centered on arts, crafts, and photography. Diane points out that many children participate in the home arts portion of the fair, which is important because it reflects everything the kids have done over the last year.

Regretfully, all good things must come to an end, including this beloved annual tradition. Increasing insurance liabilities resulted in the decision to sell the 86-acre fairground, so 2019 marks the fair’s final showing, making it a historical event for everyone who attends.

“It’s going to be sad and nostalgic for me,” says Diane, who notes that she will certainly shed a few tears when the fair closes. If that’s the case, it will be the rare occurrence of a tear falling on the fairgrounds.

But for the legion of joyful attendees, it will be an opportunity to book some wonderful memories that will last a lifetime. For a full description of the hours, numerous events, and more, walk through the fair’s virtual gates at >

Published in the August 2019 edition of Discover Prince William.

Categories : HAGARTY TALES