Mark Lovell, owner of Cordova, Tennessee-based Universal Fairs, was Tuesday’s high bidder for the Virginia State Fair site, which is also the birthplace of 1973 Triple Crown winning race horse Secretariat.
It had been advertised that the historic farm and fair site was up for auction because the non-profit that ran the state fair went bankrupt and the auction was to settle the debt. Lovell has to pony up a total of $5.67 million for the site—a winning bid of $5.35 million and auction house fee of $320,000.
Lovel reportedly already has contracted for midway rides and vendors for staging the state fair Sept. 28 through Oct. 7, Designating it the “state fair” apparently came along with the property purchase because intellectual property of the “State Fair of Virginia” was included.
Pre-auction publicity had made a big deal about how the acreage was the birth site of Secretariat. This did not seem to be what influenced much of the bidding, which reportedly lasted seven minutes on May 22, even though nearly a dozen bidders had placed refundable $250,000 deposits in order to bid.
The Meadow Farm property, a little more than 20 miles north of Richmond, included $100,000 of facilities built since 2008 to hold a state fair. Secretariat's preserved foaling shed and yearling barn also is on the property.
An Associated Press writer quoted Lovell as saying, “We have a lot of experience running fairs and we’re good at it. We’re excited with this beautiful piece of property, and we’re going to put on a fabulous 10-day event in September.” Lovell said that Universal Fairs puts on a variety of U.S. fairs, festivals and expos, including the recently acquired rights to stage the Georgia State Fair.
Lovell suggested that his company thinks the Caroline County property is good for keeping an agricultural and livestock focus for the state fair while also being appropriate for other events, shows, banquets, weddings and festivals, including music festivals/concerts.
Before the auction, Kate Chenery Tweedy, a family member of the Secretariat breeding family who sold the farm decades ago was quoted as saying she hoped that the 360-acre site will be a site for equestrian tradition going forward. Equestrian events should be possible with Lovell’s ownership.