Meadow Event Park
The Meadow Event Park in Caroline County, Virginia, is the pastoral setting for the annual State Fair of Virginia, which dates back 161 years to 1854. The fair is held in late September through early October and attracts over 230,000 attendees during its 10-day exposition of agriculture, education, and entertainment. It is just east of the theme park, Kings Dominion, which opened in 1975.
During the rest of the year, The Meadow Event Park hosts a diverse array of festivals, concerts, sporting events, consumer and trade shows, weddings and receptions, conferences, horse shows and other events. The Meadow also has the singular distinction of being the birthplace of Thoroughbred racing legend Secretariat, 1973 Triple Crown champion.
In keeping with its equestrian theme, the 331-acre (1.34 km2) venue blends new, state-of-the-art event facilities with the historic structures of the Thoroughbred farm. Inside the white-fenced fields are an exhibition hall; Meadow Pavilion; Meadow Hall mansion; and an equine complex for horse and livestock events.
The equine heritage of The Meadow is evident throughout the property. The original barns that housed Secretariat, Riva Ridge, and earlier Meadow Stable champions have been preserved and are featured on narrated tours, along with the foaling shed where the legendary Secretariat was born on March 30, 1970. Meadow Hall showcases the Meadow Champions Galleries, the Triple Crown Room and the Museum of the Virginia Horse. Each spring, fans from all over the country flock to The Meadow for the annual Secretariat Birthday Celebration. In the fall, the State Fair features a Salute to Secretariat.
The history of The Meadow dates back to 1805, when Dr. Charles D. Morris purchased 4,000 acres (16 km2) and made it his family’s home for the next 100 years. The farm was sold out of the family in the early 1900s, but in 1936, Christopher Chenery, a Morris descendant, bought it back and transformed it into one of the most renowned Thoroughbred farms of its time.
His daughter, Penny Chenery, continued his work, achieving unprecedented success with Riva Ridge and Secretariat. In 1972, Riva Ridge won the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes, but was fourth in the muddy Preakness. Wearing the same blue and white checkered silks in 1973, Secretariat became the first horse in 25 years to win the Triple Crown and the only champion to break all three track records, which still stand today.
In 1979, The Meadow was sold out of the family for the last time. Most of the property was divided into smaller parcels, and the remainder of the farm changed hands often over the years. In 2003, the State Fair of Virginia purchased The Meadow and began construction of new facilities as it prepared to move from its longtime location in Henrico County. The fair was held at The Meadow for the first time in 2009.
The venue currently is owned by the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation, Virginia's largest agricultural advocacy organization, which also owns and operates the State Fair of Virginia. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2015.