The State Fair of Virginia may be coming to Meadow Farm. Atlantic Rural Exposition Inc. (ARE), the company that operates the State Fair of Virginia, completed on Monday its purchase of the 347-acre birthplace of Secretariat. The purchase price is reported to be $5.3 million.
ARE also operates the Strawberry Hill Races as well as the Richmond Highland Games and Celtic Festival. Ross Sternheimer, president of the A&N sportswear chain, was Meadow Farm's previous owner.
Otis Brown, president of ARE considers the site having "national significance" as being the birthplace of Secretariat.
"We want to keep the equestrian ambiance here," said Brown. "Being the birthplace of Secretariat, it connotes beauty. Whether people have seen it or not, it creates visions of an attractive place and indeed it is."
ARE reviewed 28 sites in the state. Meadow Farm was one of three sites that made the short list.
"Caroline County has been working to create events to honor Secretariat and also has been concerned about the preservation of Meadow Farm. The degree of thoughtfulness that the State Fair has shown works towards preserving Meadow Farm," said Gary Wilson, Caroline County's director of economic development. Caroline County has also been working to establish the Virginia Museum of the Horse.
Meadow Farm is located down the street from King Dominion, a theme park located approximately twenty minutes north of Richmond. Moving north of Richmond allows the State Fair to be located just off of I-95 and more accessible to northern Virginia. Brown says that they have had preliminary discussions with Kings Dominion about cross promotion and complementary events such as a youth horse show.
"This can be an eastern Virginia horse show facility. There is a pent up need for that. We need to get back in that business. This in the only place where some people see real live horses," said Brown adding that Secretariat could be immortalized at Meadow Farm in many different ways.
ARE also run The Strawberry Hill Races on the third Saturday in April and have held the event at Colonial Downs since 2000. ARE is now in a dilemma about where to hold the steeplechase event balancing the excellent turf course at Colonial with the traditional desire for steeplechase races to be run over "hill and dale". Brown says that the fan base for the Strawberry Hill Races has been supportive at Colonial.
"We have to take a hard look at that. We've had such a good relationship with Colonial Downs. John Mooney (general manager of Colonial Downs) has done such a good job for us," said Brown.
Development of the State Fair is in the early planning stages and has not received any approvals by county and state agencies.