Ruritan Club Embarks On A Modern-Day Barn Raising

By Cathy Kuehner

Two constants in Clarke County are the herculean efforts of many volunteers who make events happen for their community — and those who give what they can to financially support those efforts. One great example is the annual Clarke County Fair hosted by the Ruritan Club of Clarke County.

All Ruritan Club members and another 250 or so volunteers work during “Fair Week” each August, and many more work throughout each year maintaining the grounds and handling Fair business.

Today, the Club is asking the community to help fund construction of a new Beef Barn and Poultry Building. Both were demolished in early January as both were beyond repair. The 501(c)3 non-profit organization needs $70,000 for the Beef Barn. An anonymous donor has promised $20,000 if the Ruritan Club can raise $50,000.

Think of this as a modern-day barn raising. Both buildings need to be up before the 69th Clarke County Fair in August.

Brad Broy, who has been a Ruritan for almost 15 years, is the club’s current president. “We cannot thank the community enough for all its support over the decades,” Broy said, adding, “We are forever indebted to current and past Ruritan members who built the fairgrounds we love.”

The fairgrounds and all its buildings, however, need constant work. In addition to replacing the Beef Barn and Poultry Building this year, the Club has completely renovated the Horticulture Building in order to make it an outstanding rental facility ideal for wedding receptions, family reunions, and other events.

What is today the Clarke County Ruritan Fairgrounds on West Main Street was originally the Berryville Horse Show Grounds used for the Berryville Horse Show.

“In order to finance the ongoing upkeep of the fairgrounds, the club needs to raise funds by renting our facilities,” said Broy. Everyone in the club, he said, is committed to making sure the fairgrounds exist for the community 100 years from now.

Established in 1901 by the Berryville Horse Show Association, the annual event was also known as the Clarke County Colt & Horse Show, and it was the biggest multi-day community gathering in the county. The horse show, which included racing, was so prestigious, horse owners in Loudoun and Fauquier counties put their animals on ferries to cross the Shenandoah River in order to participate.

By the 1930s, the horse show included the Clarke County Fair and Gymkhana, adding entertainment, carnival rides, and contests for everyone. Some, like the Beautiful Baby contest, raised money for local charities such as Clarke’s Visiting Nurse Program.

Like most annual events, the horse show was canceled during the war years, 1942 to 1944. In August 1945, the Clarke Courier newspaper proclaimed, “County Celebrates as War with Japan Ends,” and its September 13 edition announced “Clarke County Junior Fair” to be held September 29 at the Berryville Horse Show Grounds. Sponsored by 4-H, Future Farmers of America (FFA), and Future Homemakers of America (FHA), there were classes for homemakers, garden exhibits, farm displays, poultry, hogs, and dairy and beef cattle.

In the late 1940s, the fair moved to downtown Berryville, utilizing the Community Center (now the Dollar General store) and the field across Church Street (now a parking lot, restaurant, and stores). The 1950 fair was held in Boyce and offered 158 classes, according to the Clarke Courier.

The fair was canceled in 1951, ’52, and ’53, when war interrupted again, and soldiers were fighting in Korea.The 1954 Clarke County Agricultural Fair – also known as Clarke County Fall Festival and Fair — in downtown Berryville included a Firemen’s Parade. For the first time it was sponsored by the newly formed Ruritan Club of Clarke County. The fair remained in downtown Berryville until 1960.

When the Berryville Horse Show Association disbanded, the Ruritan Club bought the 30-acre Berryville Horse Show grounds in 1960 and renamed it the Clarke County Ruritan Fairgrounds. Club members began the never-ending work of building barns and improving the facilities. Their first big project in 1960 was building new grandstands after the circa-1901 wood structure collapsed under a heavy snow.

The Club purchased more land when it became available, expanding it to almost 50 acres with 20 structures. Today, the Horse Barn at the fairgrounds is the last remnant of the original Berryville Horse Show Grounds.

The COVID-19 pandemic canceled the Fair in 2020. The Clarke Agriculture Learning Foundation stepped up and organized a three-day “Clarke County Junior Livestock Show & Sale” in August simply so 4-H and FFA members could exhibit the animals they had worked so hard to raise that year.

In 2024, the Clarke County Fair remains the largest community gathering in a county that has long celebrated its agricultural heritage and remains dedicated to preserving its farmland.

Become a Ruritan member, or simply volunteer your time and talent. Ruritan meetings are at 7 p.m. on the third Wednesday of each month in the green Ruritan building at the fairgrounds.

Contact Ruritan president Brad Broy at (540) 336-2335,, or Send checks for the Beef Barn (payable to the Ruritan Club of Clarke County) to P.O. Box 1167, Berryville VA, 22611.

Everyone can participate in the Clarke County Fair

Children and adults of all ages are encouraged to participate in the 69th Clarke County Fair, Aug. 11 to 17, by entering any of the classes that range from arts and crafts to collections and hobbies, homegrown plants and vegetables to baked goods and fiber arts. Living on a farm is never a requirement, especially for children as young as five, who can join 4-H.

In addition to the first-, second-, and third-place ribbons awarded in every category at the Fair, each ribbon comes a premium (aka cash money).

The Fair offers hundreds of judged classes in these categories:

  • Agriculture & Horticulture (field crops, fruits, vegetables, eggs, gourds, sunflower heads for seed)
  • Floral (single specimen, potted plants, floral design, herbs, cacti and succulents)
  • Homemaking (arts and crafts, baked goods, food preservation, clothing, needle art,
  • hobbies and collections, educational exhibits)
  • Fine Arts (painting, drawing, sculpture, ceramics, mixed media)
  • Photography (portraits, still life, landscapes, animals, humorous).

Anyone 18 and younger who is interested in Beef, Dairy, Goats, Horses, Poultry, Rabbits, Sheep, and Swine should contact Clarke County 4-H at (540) 955-5164 or The 4-H office is located at 524 Westwood Rd, in Berryville.

Find all categories and details about each at