CHESTERFIELD, Va. (WRIC) — A year’s worth of planning and anticipation will culminate on Friday night with the opening of the Chesterfield County Fair. This marks the event’s 111th anniversary, according to organizers.

General Manager Brenda White Vaughn said she and her team have worked increasingly hard all year to ensure this year’s celebration is special.

“This is not your grandmother’s fair anymore,” White Vaughn said.

This year the event sports a variety of new attractions and activities, including a live alligator show featuring “Animal Planet” celebrity performer, Jimmy Riffle. It also spotlights mobile axe throwing, a chainsaw artist, an escape room, and more.

Vaughn told 8News the event would boast these new features while still maintaining some old fair favorites.

“We want this to be your happy place,” White Vaughn said.

Some of the event’s festivities started even before the grand opening. An online silent auction allowed people to bid on all sorts of unique items — even a basketball signed by University of Virginia basketball coach Tony Bennett.

The scale of this year’s auction parallels the amplified expectation from this year’s fair itself — showcasing a broader scope of prizes.

“Last year we only had about 50 something items,” White Vaughn said. “This year we had over 300.”

The power behind the auction spreads beyond flaunting fancy items. Proceeds go towards scholarship money for high school seniors in Chesterfield County.

Set-up and preview of 2022 fair layout. (Photo: Sierra Krug, 8News)

In addition to breaking records on the auction front, the fair is expected to reach more attendees than years prior. White Vaughn explained that COVID-19 forced a cancellation in 2020. While the fair rebounded in 2021, organizers anticipate an even stronger turnout in 2022.

“Now hopefully Mr. COVID has taken a background step,” White Vaughn said. “We’re excited to have all the people in Chesterfield and surrounding areas come to see us.”

Brad Matchett — a comedic hypnotist — tours the country perfecting his craft at fairs. Originally from Central Virginia, Matchett told 8News that the Chesterfield County Fair has always been a place where he feels closest to home. He’s pioneered his specific brand of comedic hypnotism at this annual fair and looks forward to new shows and experiences every year.

“This is my hometown fair,” Matchett said.

White Vaughn said the best part of the Chesterfield County fair isn’t necessarily the flashy rides, nor the fried food or games. The focal point of the festivity rests in its ability to foster relationships — new and old — between Chesterfield County residents and Richmonders across the community.

“It’s essential,” White Vaughn said. “It’s not even important, it’s essential for that community bonding and to be able to go out and have a fun family-oriented place for you and your children, your grandchildren, your neighbors.”

The fun kicks off Friday, Aug. 26, and lasts through Sept. 3. Tickets vary in price by age. More information can be found here.