The Celebrate Fairfax! Festival is a county fair and music festival hybrid, steeped in the history and vitality of Fairfax County and its 1.1 million citizens. Launched as the Fairfax Fair in 1982, the event was created by a blue ribbon commission consisting of elected officials and community leaders who realized that the fast-growing county lacked a unifying event or an established downtown. The resulting county fair was (and remains) the only major event designed to reach all of Fairfax’s communities.
Prior to its founding, other Fairfax County fairs existed dating back to the 1700’s, but by the 1950’s, all had disappeared. When the current Fairfax Fair was created in the 1980’s, it featured a chili cook-off, carnival, and commercial and county government exhibits, and was held at George Mason University. Initially coordinated by the Fairfax County Extension Office, by the end of the decade the Fair was produced by the nonprofit Faxfair Corporation. A true collaborative effort, the Fair was made possible only through the financial and community support it received.
By the early-1990’s, it became apparent that George Mason’s growth mirrored that of the Fairfax Fair, and that the needed space was not easily provided. Faxfair’s leadership worked with local officials and settled on its current home, the then-brand new Fairfax County Government Center. Including 25 acres of property, the 3-day Fair expanded its county government exhibits and created programs that fit the increasingly tech-driven Fairfax region. Among the major programs created during this time was the SciTech Center, a STEM-focused 10,000 square foot pavilion of interactive science-based activities. Also during this period, national headliner entertainment was added, including many of the top country and classic rock artists of that time, such as Toby Keith, Charlie Daniels, Trace Adkins, Three Dog Night, The Band, and Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons.
In 1996, Faxfair changed their name to Celebrate Fairfax, Inc. (CFI), to better represent the mission and vision of the organization. By the turn of the century, CFI changed the name of the Fair to the Celebrate Fairfax! Festival, branding the event as a combination of a traditional county fair with a modern music festival. With as many as 8 stages of entertainment, music had long filled the void of not having a significant agricultural presence, and showcasing of arts and education became a focal point of the annual celebration.
Today’s Celebrate Fairfax! Festival has evolved into an experience-first event. Programs are designed to be as interactive as possible, VIP experience packages offer the individual guest access to sponsor-like benefits, and attendee satisfaction is at an all-time high. Programs including local wine and craft brew tasting, a silent disco, a long-running karaoke championship, and headliners ranging from 3 Doors Down, Third Eye Blind, the B-52s, and All-American Rejects have replaced country music on the main stage.
As CFI moves forward, its signature Celebrate Fairfax! Festival is expected to continue to be at the forefront of the metropolitan fair movement. CFI has also expanded its role in the community, producing or assisting events such as the World Police & Fire Games, the Workhouse Brewfest, and the annual Fall for Fairfax KidsFest.