AUGUSTA – The Hampshire County Fair Board last week heard new ideas to “grow the fair” from Hampshire County Convention and Visitors Bureau Executive Director Tina Ladd.
Ladd told the board that the CVB is pushing agritourism, and finds people want to know where their food comes from.
“Also, county fairs represent a throwback way of life that is trendy right now,” she added, and this is helping Hampshire County attract a lot of visitors. She reported that the county’s 37 AirBnBs were “’packed” with guests in 2020 and 2021.
This year the CVB will advertise the fair by distributing rack cards to rest stops all over West Virginia and to other tourism offices – and they have bigger plans for next year.
The CVB has hired a videographer to record events on Thursday at this year’s fair, beginning with the morning judging of farm animals and continuing through the parade and the evening’s activities, to create footage set to music for short advertising next year.
This year’s fair is 4 months away, and fair board plans for entertainment are still in progress, with 1 new development.
Sandy Duncan announced that the county singer Dawn Rix will perform Saturday night. Originally from Inwood, Rix was a judge in last year’s queen contest while putting out a CD in Nashville, where she now lives.
The board does its best to keep prices down, with fair board Chairman Duane “Punkin” Oates pointing out, “we’re a nonprofit and any money left over goes back into the community” – divided among the Ruritan clubs providing the unpaid volunteers staffing the food services. The clubs use the money for scholarships and community projects.
Oates reported talking with Coca-Cola and expects to get the price of sodas back down to $ 2 this year, though the size of the sodas may decrease from 20 to 16 ounces.
The ice cream stand will be back, and the Hampshire High group that sold frozen lemonade 2 years ago will return to the fair this year.
Oates reported Paul Lewis thinks they may not have to increase prices in the snack bar, despite the impact of inflation.
One factor influencing snack bar prices will be the cost of hamburger. In past years, the L&M Market has supplied the hamburger for the fair, already molded into patties, but they have said they are unable to do so this year.
The fair board would normally expect to spend over $ 4,000 buying 600-700 pounds of hamburger to feed fairgoers for the week. Oates estimated 600-800 pounds will be needed this year, and a new supplier must be found.
He suggested one possibility might be buying a whole beef from a Hampshire County farm this year, and having it butchered, supporting local farmers while keeping costs under control and making sure the meat is of good quality.
Presenting the idea as “just a little food for thought” to be discussed later, Oates noted the fair organizers “always pride ourselves on good food – fresh hamburger, never frozen.”
Advertising for the queen pageant had begun the week before the board meeting, with 1 contestant already signed up and others reported to be interested. The 1st ad for the junior pageant appeared, and pageant organizers were hopeful that they would see more contestants this year.
Ads for the advertising signs lining the fair fences had appeared for 2 weeks, and Linda and Gary Riggleman are getting the word out that the Ruritans are charging businesses $ 50 a year for the signs, replenishing the fair fence fund that covered the $ 1,750 cost of a new sliding gate last year.
Oates is having a new announcer’s stand constructed on a hay wagon, so it can be relocated as needed, and promised to have work done on the stage in the center of the fairgrounds in preparation for this year’s events.