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Fair time: It all begins before it begins

By Staff | Aug 2, 2019

Triple R Bull Company was one of the many attractions at last year's Jefferson County Fair. Courtesy photo

KEARNEYSVILLE — As mid-August approaches, local residents are gearing up for the 67th Annual Jefferson County Fair. FFA and 4-H members are finalizing the preparations for their animal entries and other projects. Adults and children are putting finishing touches on their crafts, photographs, crops and other entries, hoping to attain that purple ‘Best-in-Show’ ribbon.

But long before any of those last-minute details take place, those behind the scenes at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds have been preparing for that one special week of the year.

Fair Manager Todd Wilt deals with a lot of administrative work, as well as maintenance and other projects around the fairgrounds.

“We start as early as February updating the fair book,” Wilt said, referring to himself, the 21-member board of directors and the department superintendents, who volunteer not only for that one week in August, but also for the entire year. The fair catalog goes to print in June, so it can be in the public’s hands by mid-to-late July.

Even before the catalog is printed outlining most exhibits and activities, 4-H and FFA members must decide what market animals they will exhibit in the fair. The first weigh-in for market steers is in December, while goats, hogs and lambs have their first weigh-in in April.

Market animals are eligible for the livestock sale on the final Saturday of fair week. General members of the public may also enter animals to be judged, but they can be entered as late as July.

Throughout the year, the fair board meets once per month to discuss any pertinent items. Various committees exist that also meet and handle issues that arise, as well as look at how to make the next fair year better than the previous one.

Over the years, many projects have been made to improve the long-awaited fair week. This year is no exception.

“The most visible project this year is a stormwater management project,” Wilt said.

Done in conjunction with the Eastern Panhandle Soil Conservation District, the visible work shows a new stone path from the flagpole to the carnival area that had previously been asphalt. The stormwater management is under the ground, but the walkway shows a change has been made.

“Maintenance has been our focus for the past four to five years,” Wilt said. “We have been able to invest between $50,000 and $100,000 each year back into the fairgrounds for the past five to six years.”

The Jefferson County Fair Association has been able to accomplish this without an increase in gate prices. This year, the entry price will remain at $5 for adults.

“We are one of two fairs in the region that hasn’t increased prices. We have had prosperity over the last 10 years,” Wilt said. “The fairgrounds have grown as the community has.”

Over his 16 years as manager, Wilt said he has learned a lot.

“But I still have a lot more to learn,” he laughed. “One of our biggest challenges is the technology era in which we live. We could do things more efficiently, but it’s a big investment, when we would only use things one week per year.”

Regardless of what changes in the coming years, visitors can look forward to all of the regular fair activities, competitions and entertainment.

This year’s fair runs Aug. 18-24. Schedules are available online at the fair website at www.jeffersoncountywvfair.org, as well as their Facebook page. Fair books can be picked up in local banks, libraries, Southern States, Tractor Supply and Gowers Feed.