Fair enough: 60th annual extravaganza wraps up

KEARNEYSVILLE – Todd Wilt said Tuesday he heard much praise and only a few gripes during the just-completed Jefferson County Fair.

The 60th annual event, which concluded its weeklong run on Saturday, brought out several thousand visitors to the 80-acre site at 1707 Leetown Pike.

“All in all, we had a lot of compliments and very few complaints,” said Wilt, who has managed the fair for 10 years.

Sunny weather helped drive up attendance, as did the popularity of events involving oversize trucks, Wilt said. “The monster trucks seemed to be a big hit for us,” he said. “The truck and tractor pulls were another big draw.”

Wilt said he realizes that many visitors may have cut short their time at the fairgrounds once the county’s public schools resumed on Aug. 22 and because of the start of extracurricular events such as high school football games.

“There’s a lot that competes for people’s time, that’s always the case,” Wilt said.

Still, Wilt said, good crowds turned out for fair staples such as Saturday’s livestock auction. “We had in excess of $100,000 spent and that’s money that goes back to the youth of the county,” Wilt said. “We had a large number of our businesses come out and show their support and of course that’s greatly appreciated.”

The fair began Aug. 18 with the Miss Jefferson County Fair contest and over the week included other fun such as live music, a demolition derby, and the midway with carnival rides, a bungee jump and food booths selling candy apples, funnel cakes and the like.

Many came to the fair to show off cattle, goats, pigs, lamb and poultry they’d raised. Other ventured into fair competitions in areas ranging from blowing bubbles with gum to tossing bales of hay to scarfing down pudding, apples, marshmallows and milk.

Visitors to the fair also had the chance to view thousands of exhibits, from fruits, flowers and vegetables grown by children and grownups in the county as well as displays of made-by-hand baked and canned goods, photographs and other art, sewing projects and handicrafts.

Though the fair has ended, its impact is ongoing, said Gail Mickey, who enters her own sewing projects at the fair each year and who has supervised sewing projects during the fair for more than three decades.

“It’s wonderful to see all the kids’ exhibits and to see their progress from year to year,” she said.

Many young people discover their life’s passion through work they do to prepare for the fair, she said.

Her own son, now 48 and an employee at Clemson University’s agricultural extension program, first became interested in raising cattle by taking on “Baby Beef” as a 4-H project.

“No one in our family had ever farmed and we couldn’t believe it when he came home from his first 4-H meeting with that project,” she said. “But he loved it and ended up pursuing a career in agriculture planning. Our daughter had a similar experience – her fair projects always involved children and today she’s a preschool teacher.”

For Mickey, the 2012 fair marked the end of an era. With the fair over, Mickey is done with her volunteer post as the fair’s sewing superintendent. Stepping into the job will be Katie Yohn. “It was time for someone younger, with new ideas to come on board,” Mickey said.

Fair organizers are looking ahead to next year’s festivities, too. The money raised at this year’s fair will be used for the 2013 event, Wilt said.

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