Caroline attracting more than fairgoers

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Print this page by Marjoljin Bijlefeld

The State Fair of Virginia drew nearly 248,000 people to Caroline County last September, but it is not the sole site attracting attention to the county.

For its 155th year, the State Fair moved from eastern Henrico County to the Meadow Event Park near Doswell.  The fair’s organizers sold its fairgrounds to Richmond International Raceway for $47 million in 1999. Meadow Event Park, formerly known as Meadow Farm, is the birthplace of Secretariat, the racehorse that won the 1973 Triple Crown.

Also drawing a crowd is the Virginia Sports Complex in Ruther Glen, a training facility with four major-league and four minor-league professional-grade baseball fields. “That’s bringing in 130,000 people a year from all over Virginia,” says Gary Wilson, the county’s director of economic development. Last year, the complex offered 19 summer sports camps.

Travelers on Interstate 95 who stop at the Caroline County Visitor Center can get a glimpse of prehistoric Virginia. The center, which houses the county economic development and tourism offices, features the 28-foot skeleton of a 14-million-year-old whale. It was uncovered in 1990 at the Carmel Church Quarry, Wilson says.

He believes the rural county’s position “outside of the media market” has been an advantage. “We consistently have been bringing new industry in,” Wilson says. “Since we are less well-known, our competitors take the foot off the gas. We keep winning that way.”

One of the county’s wins was systems engineering firm MC Dean, which has a 360,000-square-foot fabrication facility in Caroline. Construction began in 2004 and a second phase was added in 2006, for a total $15 million investment that created 140 jobs. 

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