August 29, 1854: The Greenbrier Agricultural Society Hosts First Annual Fair in Current Lewisburg
On August 29, 1854, the Greenbrier Agricultural Society hosted its first annual fair on two acres of land in what is now downtown Lewisburg. The fair distributed awards for everything from livestock, farm implements, and crops to homemade food, quilts, oil paintings, and penmanship. The Lewisburg event was one of many local 19th-century fairs. One on Wheeling Island was referred to as the “state fair,” but it was still more of a local celebration. The Wheeling Island fair was eventually discontinued due to periodic flooding on the island.
The fair we now know as the West Virginia State Fair started in Greenbrier County in 1921. Admission for adults was 75 cents at that first event, which was held at the site of today’s fairgrounds in Fairlea. Later, stables, barns, a grandstand, a stage, and an exhibit building were added.
The legislature proclaimed the event the State Fair of West Virginia in 1941, although the fair actually is owned by local stockholders, not the state. Today’s fair, held each August, continues the decades-long traditions of agricultural exhibits, harness racing, carnival rides, games, concerts, fireworks, and food.