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Rain dampens West Virginia State Fair attendance
Show renews contract with Reithoffer Shows for 3 years

9/6/2013

By Linda McNatt

Photo courtesy of West VA State Fair

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Nobody ordered it, and nobody wanted it, but five days of rain on the front end of the West Virginia State Fair this year did little to disrupt the fair's overall success.

"Our attendance numbers may have been down a little," said the fair's Marlene Pierson-Jolliffe, "but we did quite well."

The fair was held in Lewisburg, West Virginia, in the southern region of the state, from Aug. 9 through Aug. 17. Just a couple of days after the end of the fair, Pierson-Joliffe was jubilant about the outcome of the event but still hadn't determined final attendance numbers.

The fair started in Lewisburg, about half way between Charleston, West Virginia and Roanoke, Virginia, 89 years ago.

From the very beginning, the fair's major focus was to have been on agriculture. The state committee that organized the fair so manyPhoto By West VA State Fair years ago promised "to produce a quality fair committed to the traditions of agriculture."

"We had a nice balance this year of agriculture, carnival and entertainment." she said. "We had 339 hours of grounds entertainment with gate admission. It was very well received."

On Magic Monday, the fair offered a discount rate that included all-day carnival rides for $25 plus the donation of three, non-perishable cans of food and was able to raise 20,000 pounds of food, donated to community food banks.

"We were very proud of that," said Pierson-Jolliffe.

Regular admission to the West Virginia State fair was $10 for adults and $8 for youth, 8 to 12.

The carnival, with 52 different rides, was brought in by Reithoffer Shows who tour from Vermont to Florida from February through November.

There were rides like Choo Choo Charlie, Classic Carousel, Cliff Hanger, Dizzy Dragon, Mini Himalaya and Sizzler Speedway.

"We also had the Stinger and Vertigo," said Pierson-Jolliffe. "We just renewed our contract with Reithoffer for three years, and we're all very happy about that."

The carnival also offered admission passes that included unlimited rides for a day from 11 to 11 in the Mega Pass for $30 and rides from 11 to 5 in the Big Pass for $25.

If you couldn't find enough entertainment and carnival rides on the 200 acres of fair grounds at the West Virginia State Fair, you could always eat.

The fair featured almost 70 concessions this year, with everything from funnel cakes to a full service restaurant with complete meals.

Two different Future Farmers of America groups offered food; roasted corn on the cob from one group, and pork tenderloin and country ham from another. The popular Ben Ellen Donuts were also back, Pierson-Jolliffe said. The donuts have been at the fair for years and have always been popular.

There was also barbeque, "sensational cinnamon rolls," and the West Virginia Cattlemen's Association  steak sandwich that nobody could get enough of.

The fair, for the first time this year, offered a food coupon book that went over very well, said Pierson-Jolliffe. The coupon book offered $50 of discounts at the concessions.

The fair had an advertising budget of between $80,000 and $85,000. The advertising focused on social media networks like Facebook, said Pierson-Jolliffe. The fair also relied heavily on internet marketing. They also used newspapers and radio. Two key television stations in the area were able to broadcast live from the fairgrounds.

The fair was spread across 200 acres of land in Lewisburg. The fairgrounds at other times during the year is used for auctions, flea market, RV rallies and even wedding receptions.

During the fair, there were several acts performing with national name recognition and still others up-and-coming on the entertainment scene.

On opening night, West Virginia's strongmen appeared, participating a local strongman competition. There was an All American Stunt and Thrill Show, a one-man band, an extreme raptors show, and a Rowdy Rooster Puppet show.

West VA State FairThere were also Swifty Swine Pig Races and a dairy birthing center that featured farm animals as soon as they were born.

A heritage village featured the master gardener's demonstration group, an antique tractor and farm equipment show and the West Virginia University's 4-H Council Circle.

There were also examples of the university's high tunnel greenhouses and a demonstration vegetable garden.

Tate Stevens, a young, rising country singer, perfomed on Friday, Aug. 9. Stevens won the X Factor television talent competition in Dec. 2012. Power of a Love Song was his first hit single. His concert was free with the fair's admission price.

The contemporary Christian music of Casting Crowns hit the grandstand the next night. Admission to that concert was $50 and the audience was entertained by "Who Am I," a single that hit gold status. The recording was one of only 12 Christian recordings to ever secure gold. Casting Crowns has also been handed three Grammy awards and an American Music Award.

Austin Mahone, with Coco Jones, of the Disney Channel also performed.   Josh Turner, of "Why Don't We Just Dance?" fame, was on stage. The song was voted the number one played song of 2010.

Dustin Lynch, the Eli Young Band, Love and Theft, Thompson Square, Theory of a Deadman, and Parmalee, a Southern country rock band, also made fair appearances.

And there were animals, animals everywhere.

There were llama, beef cattle, dairy cattle, swine, sheep, boar goats and rabbit shows.

One of the biggest hits this year was the new Gold Lot parking addition. Those attending the fair paid $100 and got a numbered lot assigned to them for the entire length of the fair. One Hundred percent of the proceeds from the special parking went to a scholarship fund.

Fireworks capped off the fair on Saturday night.

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