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State Fair Makes An Enthusiastic Return With Food, Rides And Music

Orlando Pinder
West Virginia Public Broadcasting
Nicole Lester hits the fun slide with her family on the midway of the West Virginia State Fair.

The state fair has been a staple of West Virginia since its designation in 1941.

This year is no different, even after the pandemic closed it last year — just the second time in its history.

This past week, people have flocked to the fairgrounds in Fairlea from all corners of the state, for food, a Ferris Wheel, animals and live music.

Orlando Pinder
Jaze Spence, 4, completes barrels at the state fair with the help of his mother.

For many, this year's fair is more than just a good time, it’s an essential stop on the fair circuit. Kelly Collins, the fair's chief executive officer, says that although shutting down last year was the right thing to do, it was a tough decision.

“Professionally, there’s a lot of people that struggled because there was no state fair last year," Collins said. She grew up coming to the fair and has been heading it since 2015.

Orlando Pinder
Andrew Bohrer, who won second place in the Reserve Angus Heifer Competition, shows off his prized cow.

The event, which continues through Aug. 21, brings vendors from all over the U.S. like Derek Porter from Salisbury, North Carolina. He runs the corn stand.

“This is what I do for a living. I travel and work state fairs,” Porter said.

Orlando Pinder
Holly Eskew enjoys a meal with her family during a fair visit.

The pandemic cost him last year’s income. And with cases surging again across the country, he worries about future shows. For now, he's glad that he was able to put up his stand in West Virginia.

This year’s state fair tag line, “Brighter Days are Here,” goes to show the organizers' and vendors' optimism about opening for business. But what about fair-goers? Few chose to wear masks this year but some have concerns over the COVID-19 surge.

Orlando Pinder
Colby Buzzard attempts to win his friend a stuffed animal.

Toby Laferriere, who’s fully vaccinated, worries about the delta variant. “It is a little iffy, especially when you know there are certain people in West Virginia who refuse to get the vaccine," Laferriere said.

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Orlando Pinder
Aisha Roman waits in line for the chair swing ride.

For parents with childhood memories of the fair, bringing their kids is an important tradition. Aaron Bailey has been coming to the fair since he was 12. Now a father of three, he came straight work so his children could visit and have the same memories.

Orlando Pinder
Alex Williams competes in the West Virginia High School Rodeo at the state fair.

“It’s one of the great things West Virginia has to offer, especially for children, "Bailey said.

Orlando Pinder
Brandon Brior wheels his son -- and some yummy cotton candy -- around the state fair.

Although the jury’s still out on its impact on West Virginia with cases of the virus, residents and out-of-staters alike have turned out in full force for this year’s fair.

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