Wright to the Point


by Jonathan Wright

In less than five short months, the Greenbrier Valley’s most popular annual event will be back in town for the 90th anniversary of its exciting nine-day run: the incomparable, much-loved, highly acclaimed State Fair of West Virginia.

You don’t have to have lived here very long to realize why this Fairlea extravaganza is such an important part of our lives here. It brings an incredible amount of invaluable publicity for our area, providing immeasurable amounts of free showcasing that we simply could not afford to purchase on our own.

It also exerts an impact of $13.8 million on the state, according to fair officials, much of that presumably right here in the Greenbrier Valley. Such benefits branch out into many facets of our lives here in this wonderful part of the state. Indeed, we’re all the beneficiaries.

Because we’re so proud to have the state fairgrounds right here in our front yard, we want to continue seeing the fair prosper in positive ways. As I think about some of the things I would like to see the fair do in preparation for its 90th edition in August, here are three at the top of my list.

First, I would like to see the Cecil H. Underwood Youth Center cleaned up on the outside. This impressive, relatively new building has been around long enough that it’s starting to show its age now, with some dirty spots and dark streaks showing noticeably along its outside walls and especially around the three towers that protrude from its roof. If we local people, who drive by the fairgrounds daily, notice it, how much more will our visitors? Let’s trust that the exterior of this prominent building, which sees year-round use, will get a thorough cleaning before this year’s fair.

Second, it would be good to see, at least for this year, a moratorium on gate, entertainment, and carnival ride prices. Prices for nearly everything are increasing, of course, and we know the fair management has to make ends meet too. If there’s any way they can make ends meet without having to pass increased costs on to fairgoers, it would likely bring a great collective sigh of relief from the cash-strapped public. We—and our wallets—would be so grateful.

Third, I would love more grandstand entertainment choices in the Christian music field. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the music artists who more typically draw the largest crowds are those with huge, passionate followings—in the Christian realm. Last year’s concert by Casting Crowns attracted an enormous crowd to the grandstand, the largest of the 2013 fair.

There’s no secret as to why such groups attract large crowds. Their fans are motivated not just by passing fads but rather by something much deeper—the eternal. Fair organizers would do well to continue pursuing such groups—and even increase the percentage of their representation in each year’s concert schedules. It’s good business—no doubt about it.

Such are three of my wishes for the fair. We’re very fortunate to have some incredible personnel at the helm of this enormous event, along with the year-round operation of the fairgrounds, and we salute them as they prepare for one of most anticipated annual events in this part of the country—right here in our own Greenbrier Valley. One thing’s for sure—it’ll be here before you know it.