Rainfall fails to dampen spirits at W.Va. festival

MINERAL WELLS – First the interstate fair had to deal with heat and now the rains have come.

Despite the rain on Friday about 50 people competed in several fair contests during the 41st annual West Virginia Interstate Fair and Exposition, said fair volunteer Kelly Collins.

For a few minutes Friday it looked like the watermelon-eating contest and the bubble gum-blowing contest might be in jeopardy or at least they would have to move as a downpour swept through the area just before 3 p.m.

However, as the time came closer for the events the rain stopped, but the cloudy skies still held a threat of more rain.

Collins said the events are staples of the fair – the Kid’s Pedal Tractor Pull, the hay bale throw, the skillet toss, the watermelon-eating contest and the bubble gum-blowing contest.

Russ Collins, vice president of the West Virginia Interstate Fair Board, said he and his daughter used to compete in the watermelon contest. In years past, Collins said, the eating contest used to attract up to 50 contestants.

“I was undefeated for eight years and it got to the point where no one would compete against me,” he said. “They made me quit and manage the contest.”

Later, his daughter, Tara Swiger, was in the contest and won her division for 11 years.

Swiger said she got started watching her dad and others.

“I was in it from the time I was 6 until 21,” she said. “It got to the point nobody would compete against me either.”

One of the contestants in the watermelon eating was Christy Piggott, the West Virginia Interstate Fair Queen. Piggott said she was familiar with the contest and decided to enter.

“I’ve been coming to this fair all my life and I knew about it,” she said. “I decided to go ahead and be a part of it.”

Collins said the rain came during a slow time for the fair and will make for a cooler final two nights of the annual event.

“It’s been so hot,” he said. “This (cooler temperatures) is just perfect; we hope this will hold for Saturday.”