A Year Without the Highland County Fair

Written By: Crysta Stephenson

Editor’s note: As we are all living with the current restrictions of the COVID-19, we certainly applaud the efforts of the Highland County Fair Association for making the difficult but sound decision to cancel the 2020 Highland County Fair. We offer the following column as a light-hearted approach to enduring yet another life change during our country’s quarantine.

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Photo Credit: Crysta Stephenson

A year without a fair?

I can’t even.

Not even gonna think about it.

Cannot face it.

Do not even want to turn the calendar page to August.

Bottom line: It’s just not right.

To the happy readers that know me, you know I am devastated to face a year without a fair.

For those folks I have not met, allow me to introduce my need for the Highland County Fair on this and every single year.

Well, first of all, it is my birthday party! I was born on August 28, 1971, and every year since, I have attended almost every single event of the fair every single year. I have never missed a horse show. In fact, I attended my first one when I was only a few days old. I even have pictures.

Also, not a year has gone by that I didn’t completely indulge in fair food … sometimes even to the point of misery. But, like a trooper, I was back at it again the next night!! Corn dogs, cotton candy, Sno Cones, cheeseburgers, nachos, candy apples, French fries, and onion rings … all eaten while playing Bingo or watching the truck or tractor pull.

And … I schedule my annual vacation around the fair. I take off the whole week and enjoy every minute! Basically, I bounce all over the place just celebrating life and home. When I’m not fooling around at the fairgrounds, I’m catching up with family and friends, and I just generally soak up the last moments of summer in Highland County. It is good for the body, mind, and spirit.

But, we are not having a fair this year.

Sad face.

That’s all I’ve got.

Well, there is one word for it: “Humph.”

That’s it.

This is the most rotten occurrence of one of the craziest years ever.

NO fair????????????

I don’t even know how to face it.

How will I go on?

What will I do all week?

Go to town and sit in an empty grandstand??

Cross my arms, scowl, stick my bottom lip out, and pout … that’s the plan!

Well, I guess a person could still go home for the week. I mean … I’ve already scheduled my vacation…

I could go sit on the porch with Grandma and talk to her about everything and watch the world go by.

I could gather up Mom and Dorothy and go to town for dinner a few nights. No matter where you eat you’re gonna run into friends and neighbors.

Highland County, Virginia, Monterey, Big Valley, back road, explore, scenic, drive, motorcycle, motorcycles, route, ride, cyclist, bicycle, travel, tourism, vacation, getaway, weekend, solo, romantic, couple, family, fun

Explore the Big Valley Back Road (Photo Credit: Dorothy Stephenson)

I could gather up with some classmates and reminisce about old times when we’d met up at Ernie’s on Saturday nights and cruised around town doing everything and nothing at all.

I could drive around on some of the backroads … especially those I haven’t been on in years like Big Valley. Just spend some time reminding myself of the beauty of the place and how old it actually is and how much it is still the same as I remember.

I could ride to Blue Grass and lay some flowers on the graves I haven’t visited in many years. Say some prayers and appreciate the lives of those that have gone on to their rest.

Highland County, Virginia, Veterans Memorial, veteran, veterans, memorial, honor

Highland Veterans Memorial (Photo Credit: Crysta Stephenson)

I could visit the Highland Veterans Memorial in town and thank God and those men and women for my freedom. 

I could ride over to McDowell and see what exhibits are up at the Highland County Museum. I could take a minute or two to understand the difficulties the pioneer families faced while settling this wilderness and give a nod to the ones who have stuck it out and made this place my home.

I could roll down to the Bullpasture Gorge and drop the tip of my toe into clear, fresh water.


And, I could realize that I haven’t taken the time to do ALL those things in a really long time.

And, I could really remember who I am

… and where I came from

… and find that peace and comfort in my heart 

… that this, and every year, Highland is right here waiting for me to come home and re-connect

… and remember and rebuild that strength that we all have

… when we are immersed in our home.

Then, I will pack my little bags, head back out to the “real world,” and be ready for work again the following week.

And, as soon as I get back to the office. I’m scheduling my vacation on the same week as next year’s Highland County Fair.

Yes, the Highland County Fair is canceled this year, but Highland County, itself, is still right there waiting. As are all the blessings that come with it. Maybe, this year, we simply celebrate Fair Week in a different way? Take a ride on a back road. Eat dinner at a local restaurant. Go for a stroll around the Community Walking Trail. Or visit with our elders while we still have the chance.


About the Author

Editor & Writer | More Posts by This Author

Crysta Stephenson grew up in the Meadowdale and Vanderpool areas of Highland County. She loved it so much that she returned to raise her daughters on the family farm, Glenwood. She received a B.A. in mass communications with a minor in history from Mary Baldwin College. For 13 years, she honed her journalism skills as a staff writer and editor at two small Virginia newspapers. Her second career - also lasting 13 years - focused on managing two small historical museums here in Virginia. These days, she juggles lots of odd jobs including writing and museum assignments that give her time to enjoy life and admire the accomplishments of her daughters, Rebecca and Suzanna, and play with her grandmutts, Alex and Snoopy. She splits her time between her family home in Highland and her apartment in Augusta County.


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