Weekly Features

Historical Speaking — History of the DC Fair

 This week should have been abuzz with excitement as the community prepared for the annual Doddridge County Fair.  However, COVID 19 invaded the nation, and Doddridge County was no exception.  Events had to be canceled throughout the county as well as the entire nation.  

    I decided it might be a good time to express our great disappointment because we had no choice to cancel our 44th season.  Don’t be disheartened though, we will be back bigger and better next year.

    In the meantime, I hope you enjoy reading a little of the history of the Doddridge County Fair that I have resubmitted from last year.  It is worth the resubmission.  I think you’ll agree.        

    The year was 1977. A handful of Doddridge County individuals sought to devote their time for the purpose of establishing a county fair for the families of Doddridge. What they didn’t realize was that there was already a “Doddridge County Fair” registered in Charleston. This was an issue that demanded to be dealt with before they could register their own. 

    There hadn’t been a county fair for as long as most folks could remember. However, in the early 1900s, there had been another Doddridge County Fair. They held it in the meadow that is now the local carwash across from the Original Diner. They could not find a single person who could remember it.  In later years, they found a photo at the Doddridge County Historical Society Museum. 

    The fact remained, the unknown and inactive organization was nevertheless on the books after all those years and the freshly formed Doddridge County Fair could not adopt that name until they dissolved the former organization. 

    They filed the proper paperwork; dissolved the former organization, and the WV Secretary of State Office gave them the green light to apply.   Everything went smoothly and the new Doddridge County Fair Commission, Inc. was born. 

    August 11th came, and the newly developed Doddridge County Park gate opened that Thursday afternoon at 4 p.m. for the first Doddridge County Fair 1977. The fair was open from Thursday, August 11th to Saturday, August 13th. 

    Many of the volunteers’ names have been forgotten. Still, we can say with certainty the volunteer officers that year were: Chairman Phil McMillan who had worked with county fairs in OH and MD, thus bringing that experience with him; Secretary Judy Bee whose meticulous bookkeeping and secretarial skills are legendary; and Doddridge County Commissioner William Bartee was the treasurer. 

    Board members included successful businessman, David Bowyer, teacher, historian and author of the Herald Record weekly column Mostly About Ourselves, Dr. Alton Childers, and civic-minded Virginia Dean who served with the Doddridge County Emergency Squad. One of Doddridge County’s greatly respected equestrian experts, Kathy Higgins organized and directed the youth horse show that year. Kathy’s husband, and prosperous western shop owner, Larry Higgins, helped his wife with the youth horse show that first year and joined the D.C. Fair Commission the following year. Larry and Robin Jones were very instrumental that year and Robin later became executive secretary for the organization.   Cletha Spurgeon Osborn, 4-H Leader in the county for 35 years oversaw the quilt exhibits, and Sonny Smith helped through it all. West Union Record newspaper owner, William Stroud, very active that year, sold tickets at his newspaper office. Doddridge County Farm Bureau agent, local farmer and successful businessman, Charles Wellings offered his advice and business experience, and his wife, Barbara Wellings, who has been a prominent member of the CEOS organization for several years and is very talented in cooking, needlepoint and quilt-making as well as being one of the kindest, most humble women you’ll ever have the pleasure of meeting worked with the home economics exhibits. Wayne Willis, a successful livestock market master organized and sponsored the 4-H livestock show.  Fred Zinn, who had been in Nashville, had been urged by Phil McMillan to help with the entertainment and he agreed. 

    The WVU Doddridge County Extension Service in the courthouse’s basement at the time played a huge role in establishing the new fair commission. Patricia Simonton, extension agent and Phil McMillan, agricultural agent for Doddridge County headed the project.  They contributed over six weeks evaluating 4-H and livestock exhibits at the old stockyards off Snowbird road near the interstate and at the Doddridge County Park.

Today we associate the fair with Gambel Amusements because they have been providing the amusement rides at the fair for several years, but McGuffey Amusement provided it back then.        Thursday opened with many food booths, including nonprofit organizations like the Lions Club, local churches, and the West Union Volunteer Fire Dept. which offered hotdogs and fries as a fundraiser to support the firehouse, purchase trucks, equipment, and other necessary supplies. Game booths of every description dotted the area to the delight of the young and the young at heart.  Beautiful arts and crafts exhibits offered an assortment of items for the adults.

    On Friday, Kathy Higgins, organized and oversaw the Doddridge County Youth Horse Show.  That event drew a massive crowd.   A 4-H Style Review also took place that evening. 

Fireworks for the public’s entertainment that Friday night at 9:30 p.m. brought a rush of excitement to everyone (A volunteer that I consulted mentioned it was nearer 10 p.m.). 

    Saturday’s big finale brought a free BBQ for the community. Praise needn’t be handed out.  The amazing meal was confirmed by the smiles on the satisfied faces.  

    The D.C. Fair Commission presented an awards ceremony on a temporary stage situated behind the main facility. They awarded fine ribbons and trophies in 42 classes besides the 4-H Projects and Exhibits, Home Economics, and Horticulture classes. 

    Following the awards ceremony, Fred Zinn organized an old-fashioned square dance Saturday evening.  The dances were called by the well-received band known as the Fox Brothers. 

    Sponsors of the 1977 Doddridge County Fair were: the WVU Doddridge County Extension Service, West Union Bank, Doddridge County Farm Bureau, Doddridge County Commission, Doddridge County Fair Associates, the Markey Company, Monroe’s Market, McCormick Hardware, and many other businesses and organizations. The Doddridge County Emergency Squad attended that week on standby offering their services for any emergency that might rise. 

    It’s imperative to recognize that there were over fifty volunteers from many organizations and individuals engaged in making the Doddridge County Fair a great success. They worked endless man-hours without expectation of receiving compensation. 

    Today’s volunteers continue to work just as hard and as many untold man-hours to make the Doddridge County Fair a success year after year. They brave the elements with fears of everything from too much heat or too much rain and the ever-dangerous lightening that accompanies it.  They worry about equipment failure, volunteers becoming sick, and anything else that could be imagined.   I hope you’ll greet them kindly and offer them your gratitude for all their hard work when you see them. 

And hey… Hope to see you next year at the Doddridge County Fair!

Patricia J Harris, President

Doddridge County Historical Society