Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

August 4, 2013

Good weather brings out big crowd to fair

By BILL ARCHER
Bluefield Daily Telegraph

GARDNER — The weather was absolutely beautiful for the Mercer County Fair on Saturday, as hundreds of people turned out for the final day of the three-day event that seems to be growing along lines more closely aligned with the county’s pre-industrial heritage.

“During the last few years, I have encouraged people associated with the fair committee to find one thing that they can really get excited about and start working on that,” Dusti Snider, president of the Mercer County Fair Association said. “I tell them to find something that really lights their fire, and then, go after it.

“For me, it’s these show tractors,” Snider said pointing to the restored tractors surrounding him. “Joe Stafford had interest in the rodeo, and now it’s really taken off and Steve Johnston’s love is livestock, and now he has developed that into a real attraction. If everyone can find just one thing, I think we can start moving the fair into a positive direction.”

Of course, elements that have made the fair a huge success through the years were still there — the car show, cooking and crafts exhibits, vendors and entertainment remain a big part of the annual event. However, the rodeo show ring, tractor-pulling venue, stock pens and even several carnival-style rides appear to be growing in popularity.

“You’ll notice that my granddaughter, Lindsay (Belcher) Jackson, is not entered in the antique tractor pulling competition this year,” Jerry Belcher said after regrading the tractor-pull track after a competitor finished her pull. Belcher, a member of the fair board of directors, said that his granddaughter, and her husband, Tyler Jackson, are expecting their first child in September.

“They already know that it’s going to be a girl and they have picked out a name — Blakely Avery,” Belcher said. “The Avery part of her name comes from BF Avery toy tractors. I just thought your readers might be interested in an update.” Lindsay has been the subject of a few articles during the past several years due to her wish to become a professional antique tractor-pull driver.

While the tractors were churning on the hillside above the PikeView High School Panther football field, Molly Flanigan, was busy attracting visitors — young and old — to her scientific display.

“Allow me to demonstrate Newton’s first law of motion,” she said as she positioned an egg atop a small cardboard paper roll and placed that on a pie tin that was positioned on top of a glass of water. She quickly pulled the tin from beneath the egg and stated: “A body at rest tends to remain at rest unless acted upon by an outside force.” The egg fell into the water glass without breaking.

Pat Davis and several other model aircraft enthusiasts were busy flying fixed wing model aircraft and model helicopters. “We’re going to stir up some interest or stir up some dust,” Davis said. “Maybe we’ll do a little of both.”

Several civic organizations including the Mercer County Beekeeper’s Association, Mercer County Historical Society and many more were providing information along with delicious food.

“We’re the Appalachian Hoedowners from Crockett, Virginia,” Melissa Eversol said after a group of 20 or more put on a precision flatfooting demonstration on stage at the fair. “The more you clap, the more we’ll dance,” Eversol added.

“We have at least two generations that don’t know what a county fair is,” Keith Circle, vice president of the fair association, said. “I think that everyone here is having a good time. I tell people that come here, walk around for a while, find a shady spot, just sit down for a while and take it all in. A county fair isn’t the kind of a thing where you can park your car, get out, walk around for a few minutes and then leave.”

Circle expressed his appreciation to Meagan Iddings for working her first year as association secretary, but added his thanks to long-time secretary, Anna Johnson who worked in the background to make the event was a success. He also thanked Gail Hill, fair treasurer, “and all of our board members.”

Snider said that despite some unforeseeable disappointments, he was pleased with this year’s fair. “I have gotten more of a feel in the past three or four years that we’re headed in the right direction,” he said. “Of course, we welcome constructive criticism if it will help us have a better fair next year.”

— Contact Bill Archer at barcher@bdtonline.com