Jefferson County Fair gets under way

August 23, 2004|by DAVE McMILLION

LEETOWN, W.Va. - The Jefferson County Fair began Sunday, and like many festivals of its kind around the region, it wouldn't be the same without the sound of antique gas engines.

The engines, which are popular items among collectors, were used in the late 1800s and early 1900s to help Americans perform chores around the household or farm.

The engines could be hooked up to a belt to power a saw, attached to a pump to draw water out of the ground or perform any number of other tasks, said collector Mark Durst of Kearneysville, W.Va.


With their periodic blasts of power, the sound of the engines echo across the fairgrounds, giving the event a distinctive feel.

The engines have large metal flywheels that spin until they decrease to a certain speed, at which time the gas engine fires again to keep the wheels going.

Durst agreed that many people like to refer to the era when the engines were used as "the good old days."

Durst said his mother saw it differently.

"She said, 'I remember them. But they were the hard old days,'" said Durst.

Durst showed off a 11/2 horsepower Jaeger gas engine he owns as well as a similar model that was made by a company called Sandwich.

Durst pointed out a gas-powered washing machine, which dates back to the early 1900s.

No normal wash cycle or permanent press cycle exist with this model, which was being shown by Bill Parker of Martinsburg, W.Va.

Just like with a lawn mower, it was a matter of firing up the gas engine and letting it wash, Durst said.

Users typically let the machine run for about 30 minutes or so before taking clothes out and putting them through a wringer on the top of the machine, Durst said.

Then the clothes were rinsed by hand, Durst said.

"If you were doing clothes on a washboard, man, this was a big improvement," said Durst.

The washing machine and engines owned by Durst and Parker were part of an exhibit of old engines on display this week at the fair, which runs until Saturday.

The fair is in its 52nd year, and organizers say they are proud of its family-oriented style. The fair's attractions this week include performances by local school bands, a figure 8 demolition derby, watermelon eating contest, a Llama demonstration, antique tractor pull, a wide variety of livestock judging events and a performance by the Kentucky Headhunters band.

The fair gives youth and adults a place to show livestock they have raised throughout the year and a chance at winning ribbons and prize money for top animals.

Many youths raise the animals as part of their projects for 4-H and Future Farmers of America groups.

The fair thrives even as parts of the county's agricultural landscape begins to give way to residential development, organizers say.

Fair officials believe the fair, like others in the region, continues to be popular because it's an event people treasure.

As of Sunday, more than 1,300 exhibits were entered by adults and children, said fair spokesman Locke Wysong Jr.

It's a number that keeps growing, Wysong said.

"They're in and ready to go. Ready for a good week," Wysong said.

Among the weekend events were the crowning of the Little Miss Jefferson County Fair, Junior Miss Jefferson County Fair and Miss Jefferson County Fair.

Payton Jackson was crowned Little Miss Jefferson County Fair on Saturday night and Kayla Nicole Jackson was crowned Junior Miss Jefferson County Fair on Sunday, Wysong said.

Melinda Lewis of Charles Town was named Miss Jefferson County Fair Sunday night.

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