Countryside: Stories, Ribbons and Nostalgia from the Albemarle County Fair

Hope Garrison with her gorgeous white Charolais Heifer, Demi.  Hope placed 2nd in Novice Beef Fitting and Showmanship, and 4th in Registered Breed Beef Heifer. Photo: Tiffany Garrison.

When Hannah Orsagh moved to Free Union, she resolved to do what she could to teach her four children some of the time-honored crafts and traditions of the Virginia countryside. “I had the luxury of time, and I wanted to see what would interest my children,” she said. “By homeschooling, I was able to expose them to all kinds of traditional skills.” 

Orsagh is from England, and she said the traditions we honor are the same practices handed down in English families: gardening, building, beekeeping, sewing, livestock care, and cooking, plus more modern arts like photography and Lego sculpture. 

This qulted bag by Piper Lohan of Crozet won a blue ribbon at the Albemarle County fair. Submitted.

The Orsagh children, ages 6 to 11, joined the Monticello Community Club, where Hannah serves as the home arts group leader. The art of quilting especially appeals to her: “I like the idea that making a quilt involves both working on your own, and also in company with others, just like people did in the past,” she said. 

The Albemarle County Fair serves as an incentive for children and adults to improve their skills, and for those with a passion for husbandry or home arts to observe what others like them are doing. “There’s something for everyone,” Hannah said.

That was true of the Orsagh family. Jessie, Nellie, Gus and Teddy submitted vegetables, sewing, photography, flowers, drawing, and Lego and wood sculptures.

Hannah volunteered to help out with receiving and registering entries as the fair began. “I didn’t expect to hear so many stories,” she said. “Showing their best work has a real impact on people.” In a letter promoting the fair, she wrote. “It occurs to me that it would be so wonderful if we would take a moment to look beyond the actual entry or ribbon itself and share some of those stories.”

. Jessica Orsagh, June Bryant, Evey Bryant, and Knox Bryant admire the artwork submitted to the Albemarle County Fair. Submitted photo.

She chose a few: There was a mixed media piece made by a young woman in honor of a grandmother who passed away. It includes pieces of glass that came from trash collected at the Shiflett Family Cemetery in Shenandoah National Park. 

Another entry included three photos of baby bluebirds with their parents in a bluebird box. “A friend had given the exhibitor this box and attached it to her washing line for solace following the death of her husband,” Hannah noted. “This lady lights up when talking about her bluebirds.”

One 90-year-old gentleman submitted a jar of wineberry jam. It was his sole entry, brought to the fair by a neighbor. At the other end of the age spectrum was a collection of vegetables in art made by preschoolers at an early learning center. The preschool has submitted entries for many years, and seeing them at the fair is a yearly highlight for the children. 

With help from some honeybees, Eamon Lohan of Crozet won a first place for liquid honey.

Interested families found it easier than ever to navigate the fair entry process. “I found the online registration process this year to be so seamless and easy to navigate,” said Kimberly Lohan of Crozet. “Dropping off fair entries this year took a fraction of the time as last year. Both my kids entered in the fair this year and last and enjoyed coming to see the entries and thinking about what they might like to exhibit next year.” Lohan’s children, Eamon and Piper, won ribbons: Eamon for honey, and Piper for sewing.

Hope Garrison, 12, talked about her experience as a young stock farmer in the livestock group: “I love 4H because I’m outside with animals, my heifer Demi and my pony Harley, working hard to get ready for the fair and horse shows. I also like being with my friends in each club.”

The fair this July was the first one where Hope entered Demi. She said there were a lot of things she didn’t know or expect, but everything went well. “Just keeping Demi clean was a lot to do: cleaning her stall, bedding it, washing her, feeding her, keeping her water full and fans running. It was very hot.”

To keep Demi happy, safe and healthy took Hope all day every day, she said. “My family helped, too, as I couldn’t have gone to the fair without their time and support. What’s her next plan for Demi? “I hope to take Demi to a show in Rockingham County, a Charolais show, in October.”

“It’s hard work,” Hope said, “but I push through.”

To learn more about opportunities in 4-H, visit

Farmers Report Dry Conditions, Normal Harvest

Weather conditions were mostly hot and dry through August, and Virginia reports that some crops are showing signs of heat stress. Almost half the state’s farmers report adequate moisture so far, despite the moderate drought conditions. Of nearby counties, only Augusta has been included under a drought watch. Corn is being harvested across the state, and the majority of farmers surveyed anticipate a good harvest. It’s a busy time: calving season, corn harvest, and the beginning of the apple and grape harvests. 

In Virginia, beef prices are down from $2 to $6 per hundredweight. There were no recent reports from the Staunton Union Stockyard, which usually enjoys slightly higher prices than other Virginia markets. 


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