This year's Randolph County Fair may only last four days, but preparations take months of organizing by the fair board members and many volunteers. Now, as the fair quickly approaches, workers are applying the finishing touches to both new events and returning classics.
This year's fair is under the new leadership of Randolph County Fair President Mike Elza. Elza became initially involed in the fair through his work at Mountain Hospice.
"The fair was gracious enough to allow Mountain Hospice to come up here and do various fundraisers during the fair," said Elza, "and it has gone from that into helping with the fair every year."
Elza was proud to announce some of the new additions and expansions this year.
On Thursday, new to the fair is Johnny Cochran and the Trailblazers.
"We're looking forward to that," said Elza. "It's a variety show. There's comedy, there's puppets, there's country music and a little bit of everything."
A new ongoing event with four shows on Friday and four shows on Saturday is the Bear Hollow Wood Carvers. Elza said the fair board's interest in the group was sparked at the West Virginia Fairs and Festivals Convention, where he and other organizers saw an exhibit by the Indiana-based group
"They were just unbelievable pieces of carving," said Elza. All the pieces will be put up for auction at the fair, and fair organizers are hoping the carvers find time to create a West Virginia mountaineer.
A new addition on Sunday is a church service with a picnic to follow.
"The church that adjoins our property has agreed to have church service. We've invited churches throughout the state of West Virginia to attend," Elza said.
Also new on Sunday is the Sonshine Puppet Ministry show.
"Children will love it," said Elza. "It kept my attention.
"Gambill Amusement rides were new last year, but they're going to be a lot bigger and better this year," he added. Rides will run from noon Saturday to the end of the fair.
While Elza may be steering the fair board, it's a team effort to organize the fair's many intricacies that will ultimately be enjoyed by fairgoers.
On Friday, Educational Day brings together educators and students to appreciate many aspects of the fair. "It's for all Randolph County fourth-graders," said the day's coordinator and WVU Extension 4-H Youth development agent, Amanda Johnson. "They come with their teachers and they'll do a total of eight stations including a focus on agriculture, heritage, 4-H and FFA farm olympics, woodcarving, candlemaking and even how to make sauerkraut. It's a fun day for them and they learn a lot."
Wendy Thurston, FFA advisor for Elkins High School, said the young fourth-graders seem to always have more energy than her students who help run the event.
"It's one of the few things that tires out my high school students. By the end of the day they're ready to sit down, but they do love it," Thurston said.
Chrissy Harper, a member of the fair's board of directors, has been busy organizing the fair's two pageants: Miss Randolph County Fair and Miss Teen Randolph County Fair.
"This year we are doing something new," said Harper. "The girls have always done creative exhibits. The girls sometimes display something they have sewn, written, photographed or any other creative project. What's new is that this year the exhibits are being auctioned off in a silent auction."
Randolph County Fair Vice President Zachary Teter has been focusing on Friday night's rodeo. "The rodeo will include mutton busting, calf branding, barrel racing and bullriding," said Teter. "The bullriding is not a new event, but we expect higher quality riders this year."
In the barn, fairgoers will find the livestock show and sales. Fairboard member Jaime Swecker and volunteer Jessica Swecker of 4-H have both been making sure everything's ready for the community to view the livestock.
Another returning event is the Saturday night demolition derby. Fair board member Randy Snyder, in charge of the derby, said, "Come out and watch them smash the cars."
Along with Snyder, John Swecker, also a fair board member overseeing the derby, explained that two divisions exist with different prize amounts. Full-size eight-cylinder cars receive $400 for first place, while four- to six-cylinder cars can take home a first-place prize of $250. Last year's derby attracted around 50 contestants. The board members said they expect more this year.
4-H pinwearer Barbara Douglas said that she is finishing up with organizing the booths.
"I'm trying now to get all the exhibitors in the booths," she said. "If anyone would like to get involved with a booth such as crafts, get a hold of us through our website at www.randolphcountyfairwv.com." Douglas is also working with other 4-H pinwearers to give fairgoers the chance to view classic and antique cars.
The fair board hopes all their hard work will pay off in the end when they can witness the enjoyment of fairgoers.
Fair board member Kathy Stalnaker expressed why she feels their efforts are important.
"The fair brings the community together as a whole and it highlights all of the various aspects of the county: produce, livestock, all of the things 4-H stands for, and it showcases what the kids in the county have done," she said.
Elza said the many diverse events will allow the fair to achieve its mission statement: to promote, educate and showcase Randolph County.