WEST ALEXANDER – At 110 years old, West Alexander Fair has many stories to tell, some of which are being unveiled on a new “History Walk,” a series of nine large boards that depict specific periods in the fair’s history through images, graphics and text.
The colorful display, which will be present at the fair’s run from Monday through Sept. 9, was prominent Wednesday afternoon during a media day sponsored by the fair board and Washington County Tourism Promotion Agency, which also officially kicked off the county’s fall season of tourism events.
The setting, inside the fairgrounds’ 2,400-square-foot entertainment center – which received a new concrete floor this year – also was an appropriate place for county, state and fair officials to note why agri-tourism – think fairs, covered bridges, pumpkin festivals and farmers markets featuring the local harvest – attracts multitudes of visitors to the county every autumn.
According to WCTPA President Jeff Kotula, tourism continues to be one of the largest industries in the county, accounting for nearly $750 million in direct annual visitor spending and supporting nearly 6,000 jobs.
“Agriculture is one of Pennsylvania’s leading industries, generating more than $7.4 billion in economic impact annually, with 59,000 farms using nearly 8 million acres of land,” he said.
Carrie Fischer Lepore, deputy secretary of the Office of Marketing, Tourism and Film for the state Department of Community & Economic Development, added Pennsylvania is home to more than 109 agricultural fairs, which attract more than 5.5 million visitors annually and contribute more than $126 million to the state economy.
“It’s an economic generator in both production and tourism,” Kotula said.
Like the boards depicting the fair’s long history, Wednesday’s event also underscored the important crossroads of agriculture and tourism in Washington County, said commissioners Chairman Larry Maggi, who noted his grandfather was a member of the West Alexander Fair Board for many years.
Fair board member Dwight Hunter said the 40-acre fairgrounds generates income on a nearly year-round basis, something that illustrates the progress it’s made over its long history.
It now hosts weddings, graduation parties, family reunions, weekly tractor pulls and a farmers market open from May to October.
“You can’t operate a fairground on one week a year,” he said.
In addition to the upcoming fair, WCTPA announced numerous other fall events, including:
• Pennsylvania Bavarian Oktoberfest, Canonsburg, Sept. 15-17.
• 47th annual Washington & Greene Counties Covered Bridge Festival, Sept. 16-17
• Hickory Apple Festival, Mt. Pleasant Township VFC, Hickory, Oct. 7-8
• Houston Pumpkin Festival, Houston American Legion Post 902, Oct. 13-15
• Pumpkin Patch Trolley, Pennsylvania Trolley Museum, Arden, Oct. 13-15, 20-22 and 28-29
• 23rd annual Pennsylvania Arts & Crafts Christmas Festival, Washington County Fairgrounds, Oct. 20-22, Oct. 28-29
• 2nd Annual Witch Festival, Monongahela Aquatorium, Oct. 28