Author: Holly Marcus
“When I was your age, I used to walk to school everyday…uphill…both ways…” the old saying goes. Chances are good, if the person telling you that is over a certain age, at least the first part of that statement is true. According to the National Center for Safe Routes to School, “In 1969, 48 percent of children 5 to 14 years of age usually walked or bicycled to school.” By 2009, that number had dropped to 13 percent.
While most people are familiar with what a county fair is, few may realize why we have them. The Rockingham Fair Association, which hosts the annual county fair, just outside the city limits south of Harrisonburg, states it held its first fair in 1949, although other local organizations held fairs in various locations around the county prior to that date. The history of the county fair in America, however, began much earlier.
What started off as a few timid punches soon escalated to raucous laughter and mighty blows. A series of rights and lefts, blocks and jabs were thrown as spouses hid behind the safety of punching bags and battled each other with apparent delight.
Dusting off his hands after an early morning of pulling weeds, Leons Kabongo steps back to admire his vegetable garden. Tucked between two houses on a half-acre lot on Madison Street, it features towering plumes of amaranth. In his native Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Kabongo says, it’s known as “bitekuteku.”
More than two hundred people gathered on Friday for the ribbon cutting ceremony for JMU’s newest residence hall, which officially opened this semester. The building was named in honor of Paul Jennings, the enslaved personal servant of James Madison during his presidency and time at Montpelier.
A flurry of activity started early Wednesday morning around Harrisonburg and Rockingham County. You may have spotted the volunteers in their red shirts, spreading new mulch around playgrounds, brightening up school swing sets and basketball goals with fresh paint and tidying up yards and flowerbeds at many non-profits.
The Rockingham County Fair is food, from the milk cows stanchioned in the dairy barn to carnival cotton candy on the midway. Horticulture and homemaking displays celebrate the ability to grow and prepare food, while outside the exhibit halls the fair is a celebration of how to consume it.
“This is an exercise,” Stephanie Harris told the crowd about to take part in a Monday morning training exercise with the Virginia Department of Emergency Management. Around her were about 160 volunteer “victims” of a simulated gas explosion at JMU’s Bridgeforth Stadium, along with dozens of rescue and security personnel that would be responding to the disaster.