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Jefferson County Fair celebrates 'all things rural'

August 16, 2012|By RICHARD F. BELISLE | richardb@herald-mail.com
  • Kyle Friend, a director of the Jefferson County Fair and a contestant in the annual Timber Sports event, shows the specially made New Zealand steel ax he will use in the competition on Aug. 24.
by Richard F. Belisle

KEARNEYSVILLE, W.Va. — Bob Gruber, president of the Jefferson County Fair Association, calls fair week “that time of year when we celebrate all things rural.”

On Sunday, the association opens the 60th edition of the Jefferson County Fair at 1707 Leetown Pike, basically a carbon copy of last year’s, said Todd Wilt, who has managed the event for the last 10 years.

Wilt said the Miss Jefferson County Fair contest will be Saturday at 6:30 p.m., while contests for Little Miss and Junior Miss begin Sunday at 1:30 and 7 p.m., respectively.

The 2012 fair is dedicated to the memory of Charles “Buddy” Ware, who served on the board of directors for 19 years. Ware, who died earlier this year, was part of the group that led the effort in 1975 to move the fair from the thoroughbred racetrack in Charles Town, W.Va., to its permanent 80-acre home on Leetown Pike.

Scott Coyle, in a biography of Ware that appears in this year’s fair brochure, wrote: “Buddy was indeed part of that visionary group that had a dream for a fairgrounds, and set the mechanism in place to not only make it a reality but to make it grow and flourish.”

Ware grew up on a farm across from the fairgrounds and raised his family on a farm next to them, according to Coyle.

The Timber Sports Competition, a popular feature among fairgoers, returns for the fifth year on the stage Aug. 24 at 7:30 p.m.

Kyle Friend, 32, a fair director and a competitor in that night’s contest, became involved in the sport 10 years ago while studying agriculture and environmental education at West Virginia University.

Competitive wood chopping and sawing are Mountain State staples, as evidenced by their popularity at such events as the Mountain State Forest Festival in Elkins and the Webster County Wood Chopping Festival.

Competitors such as Friend wield razor-sharp, polished-steel axes made especially for such events in Australia and New Zealand. They cost about $500. Friend said most choppers bring five or six axes to a single contest, their use dictated by the condition of the wood, be it dry, wet, hard or soft, he said.

Other events that typically draw crowds are the wheeled contests — truck and tractor pulls, demolition derbies, mud bog, Tuff Truck, and car and monster truck demonstrations.

The midway, which opens every evening, always is popular with patrons, Wilt said.

More traditional country fair fare centers around animal and poultry judging and shows. There are contests for bubble gum blowing; pudding, apple and marshmallow eating; milk drinking; and hay bale tossing.

One large building holds rows of tables topped with fruits and vegetables, flowers and livestock feed grown by exhibitors. There also are baked and canned goods, photography, sewing and handicraft exhibits.

“One of the highlights of the fair is seeing all of the 4-H and FFA members in their elements showing their livestock and exhibiting projects in the youth department,” Gruber said in his welcoming statement.

All profits go back into the fair’s coffers to keep it going year after year, Wilt said.

“This year, we replaced roofs on three buildings and built a $35,000 new hog barn and pens,” he said.

The fair begins Sunday and runs through Aug. 25.

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