For almost 110 years, the West Alexander Fair has heralded the end of summer as most youngsters either started school or will head to class in the coming days.
“West Alexander is more of a country fair, a fair for the family,” said Dwight Hunter, long-time member of the fair’s board of directors. “This is the last big thing for the year.”
The first fair in the area was a farmer’s fair in 1898, a few miles away from the fairgrounds’ current location on Route 40 not far from the West Virginia line. The fair was incorporated in 1906 and has been held ever since.
Hunter said the fair found more success offering attractions and events involving local residents.
“We tried some big-name entertainment, but financially it did not work out well for us,” Hunter said. “We are better off offering local entertainment and things involving local participants like the tractor pull and motocross races. We get parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles coming out to watch the kids.”
The fair has activities to interest a broad range of participants like hot dog eating and cornhole competitions. Second-grade students in the McGuffey School District will spend Wednesday at the fair as part of “Got Ag” Day.
Generations of families in the area participated in or attended the fair. And the interest continued among younger people in keeping the fair alive.
“We are lucky that we have a good bunch of young people to keep the fair going,” Hunter said. “Not so long ago, I’d look at the fair board and realize I was one of the youngest. But now, I look around and see the sons and daughters or even grandchildren of former board members with me. This fair will be in good hands for a few more decades.”
The fair was also the first in the state other than the annual state livestock show to hold a market livestock auction, Hunter said. The first sale, held in 1960, was organized by Owen Hertig, grandfather of Washington County Commissioner Larry Maggi, and Louis Sax of West Virginia. This year’s sale of animals raised by 4-H and FFA members is set for 11 a.m. Saturday.
The fair also received assistance with promoting events from Washington County Tourism. Last year, visitors leaving the fair were asked where they had come from, Hunter said.
“Sixty percent had come from West Virginia or Ohio,” Hunter added. “Being so close to West Virginia helps.”
Hunter said the fair board has a good company in Shaw and Sons of Baltimore, Md., that provides the rides in the midway. He said the $8 daily admission remains a good entertainment value.
Back after an absence of about 40 years is a fireworks display, planned for Friday night.
“We haven’t had fireworks since the 70s,” Hunter said. “But people wanted it back. A local gentleman will be putting it on. He has found a spot to safely put them off.”
Visitors to this year’s fair will find the grounds and buildings are spruced up. A permanent stage was built in the show tent. The tent is used during other times of the year for events like graduation parties and weddings.
“It makes the facility more versatile,” Hunter said. “We can’t survive p.m. just what we make during the fair.”
The fair continues today with judging of goats and market lambs and the demolition derby. A second demolition derby is scheduled for Wednesday night. Earlier in the day, breeding and market hogs will be judge. Market steers will be judged Thursday. Also Thursday will be arena cross races in the grandstand. Friday’s truck pull will be followed by the fireworks. The feature Saturday is the tractor pull.
But the fairgrounds will not stay quiet for long. Once the last market animal is sold and the last of the vendors have packed up their booths, preparations will begin for the second Scare at the Fair which will be held Friday and Saturday nights from Oct. 10 and 11 through Oct. 31 and Nov. 1.