Visitors to the 53rd Annual Washington County Fair stroll

Visitors to the 53rd Annual Washington County Fair stroll along the Rockwell Amusement midway. The fair will return in 2020, but will be in a virtual format instead. Sun file photo

RICHMOND — The 54th Washington County Fair will definitely be one for the history books.

For the first time ever, the fair — Rhode Island's largest agricultural fair which typically attracts thousands of visitors to the iconic Richmond fairgrounds each year — will be a virtual event, complete with kids' games, agricultural contests, a 4-H competition and the popular queen and princess contests.

Live musical entertainment will be streamed each night from 8 to 9 p.m. featuring a mix of local favorites who have played the Main Stage in recent years, as well as emerging stars from Nashville.

"It's something a little different," said Roxanne Nelson, one of the three co-chairs of the event, "and it's a big undertaking."

Nelson, who shares the chairmanship with Sean McGrory and Rick Gardiner, said once the committee members realized the seriousness of the pandemic back in April, they announced the 2020 fair was canceled. With the governor's restrictions on crowd size, Nelson said, they knew it would be impossible to proceed as planned.

"But we knew we wanted to offer something," she added. They knew they wanted to "deliver another amazing fair," while keeping "the safety of our attendees, 4-H and FFA youth, vendors and volunteers in mind."

Since then, the committee has been working on "innovative ways to provide virtual entertainment and contests during the time frame the fair was scheduled to run," and finding ways "to support the various not-for-profit organizations and vendors who typically rely on income generated by their booths during the week of fair."

The fair will be held the same dates as originally planned — from Aug. 12-16 — and will feature many of the fair favorites with a twist.

The children's games, for instance, will require participants to submit videos of themselves in motion. Youngsters participating in the "Outdoor Obstacle Course," for instance, will be asked to create then complete their own homegrown obstacle course. Judges will base their decisions on most creative and most unique. 

Those participating in the arts and crafts contests will be asked to submit photos of themselves with their handiwork by Aug. 1, Nelson said.

This year's animal costume parade will be open to "anybody with a pet," Nelson said. Participants will be asked to dress their animals and take a short video, no longer than 30 seconds, and submit to the committee for judging by July 16.

As far as the fair royalty contests, she added, submissions are now being accepted for contestants in the 2020 "Queen & Princess of the Fair" contest.

All requirements are posted on the fair website, Nelson said. Qualifying applicants will be to create videos which will the appear on Facebook in July for voting.

Nelson said one of her biggest concerns was for the "Food Booth" vendors. 

"They are all non-profits," she said, "and they still need our help."

Barbie-Jo Fratus, the president of Mix Marketing Corp., who has been hired to help the publicize the fair, said more information will be released in the weeks to come, and will posted on the fair website and Facebook pages.

Nelson said the committee will also be announcing some of the Main Stage lineup for The 55th Washington County Fair, scheduled to take place in August 2021 when the 2020 fair opens officially in August.

More information, submission details and contest rules can be found at washingtoncountyfair-ri.com.

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