December 2, 2011
SFVA, Inc., (SFVA) the not-for-profit corporation that operates the State Fair of Virginia, has voluntarily filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection to restructure its debt.
State Fair officials said they fully intend to continue normal operations during the bankruptcy proceeding and emerge on a firm financial footing.
Curry A. Roberts, president and chief executive officer of SFVA, said the filing was necessary because the financial portfolio underlying its bank loan is currently half of what it was in 2007. The large majority of the loss occurred during the stock market drop in 2009, making it untenable to indefinitely continue paying principle and interest under the original loan structure.
"The State Fair has operated in Virginia for 157 years and we will take every step necessary to protect and continue this wonderful tradition," Roberts said. "This is a one-time financial event which should support continued operations and allow SVFA to emerge with a sustainable financial structure. This is the responsible step to take to support the Fair and our other operations."
Roberts said SFVA is current on its loan payments and that its multi-faceted operations remain strong, with 2011 on track to be its best year ever in terms of total number of events and attendance at its location near Doswell, Virginia. Attendance at the State Fair two months ago posted a 32 percent increase in paid attendance over 2010.
“SFVA is much more than just one event,” Roberts said, “and we’re so much more than midway rides and fried candy bars. Each year we provide a venue for tens of thousands of youth and families to showcase their farm animals, enter apple pies and Brunswick stews in food competitions and display quilts, paintings and handmade crafts.”
In 2011, attendance at the State Fair was 269,000, and according to research, the number one reason to attend the fair was cited as animal agriculture.
Roberts and SFVA board member William S. Mistr, a retired executive with Dominion Resources, Inc., made the announcement during a conference call Thursday with the news media. The two said the organization had been working cooperatively with its lenders for two years to reach a new agreement. The decision to file for voluntary bankruptcy protection was made by the SFVA board unanimously after the organization could not reach a new agreement with the lender group.
SFVA is a 501-c3, not-for-profit corporation and receives no state or local operating support. It is one of only a handful of state fairs in America structured to operate without public funding. SFVA also operates the Strawberry Hill Races, founded in 1895, and the Meadow Highland Games & Celtic Festival, founded in 1995.