RICHMOND -- The molting horseshoe crab was a hit with the children. Adults were fascinated with the wide variety of Chesapeake Bay fish swimming in the tanks.
The judges were pleased with the entire presentation and on Oct. 2 awarded the Virginia Marine Resources Commission a Director's Choice award at the State Fair of Virginia. This was the third time in the past three years that the agency won an award from fair judges.
"These awards are rare," said fair president Curry Roberts. "To continue to get repeats says a lot."
Only 15 such awards were given this year in a field of almost 300 displays and vendors at the fair.
The agency's display was an outreach effort to inform and entertain fair-goers, and to captivate potential new saltwater anglers.
More than 250,000 people attended the fair in Richmond this year, and an estimated 13,000 school children stopped to see the wonders at the agency's display. The fair was held Sept. 25 to Oct. 5.
The judges were impressed with the hands-on and interactive nature of the agency's fair effort. Marine Police Officers set up a wall of mounted trophy fish and a 27-foot Protector with twin 200-horsepower engines, one of the law enforcement division's fleet of fast boats. Officers were on hand to answer questions and distribute literature.
Agency fishery staffers filled four large aquariums with a wide variety of animals that live in the Chesapeake Bay, including puffer fish, flounder, black sea bass, croaker, pompano, red drum, cobia and shrimp. Staffers answered thousands of questions a day from fascinated fair-goers who wanted to know more about the various species. Visitors could touch the horseshoe crabs that were on hand. At one point, a female horseshoe crab molted in front of the eyes of a half dozen fascinated school children who took photos of the rarely seen event.
"This was really great, especially for the kids who live in the middle of the state and who don't know anything about saltwater fish,'' said a smiling Marine Police Sgt. Ed Clifton, who headed up the agency's law enforcement contingent at the fair.