PARKERSBURG - Representatives of the West Virginia Interstate Fair and Exposition hope the July 16-20 fair will be a good comeback year after last June's storms and a couple of years in down attendance due, at least in part, to road work.
Mike Zoller and Russ Parsons, with the fair board, said last June's storms did a lot of damage to the fairgrounds.
"We were almost removed from the map. We had in excess of $400,000 in damages," Zoller said.
Mike Zoller and Russ Parsons, representing the West Virginia Interstate Fair and Exposition board, updated Wood County commissioners Monday on this year’s fair scheduled for July 16-20. (Photo by Pamela Brust)
"We had two buildings that were completely destroyed, and every building on the grounds sustained damage except one. Every roof had to be replaced," Parsons said.
Zoller said the fair had to cover the deductible for the insurance, and they had to wait for the insurance payment. He said the Federal Emergency Management Agency paid for most of the cleanup. "Several items couldn't be covered. We lost the entertainment trailer and we lost the front wall of the barn was damaged, and the office trailer was just tossed around like it was a toy. We had a lot of work to do in a very short period of time before the fair last year," he said. "But we are rebuilding, coming back."
"The DOH road closure was painful, that hurt us too. This is the fourth summer they've been working on the project," Zoller said. "We are requesting any assistance they can give us during the week of the fair, but when your main thoroughfare is in jeopardy, it hurts."
"We have suffered; our numbers have been down with the road work," Parsons said.
"In any community, it's important to participate; it's what makes a community vital," commission President Wayne Dunn said of the fair and similar activities.
Zoller said the schedule includes food vendors, carnival rides, livestock exhibits and sales, pageants; Tuff Truck competition; bingo; ATV drag racing; The Henningsen's will be on the main stage on July 16. There will be ATV Mud Bog; Chris Janson will be performing July 17 on the main stage; Armed Forces Day will be July 18. West Virginia State Association Hereford Cattle Show' diaper derby, spitting contest; Taylor Sams will perform on stage on July 18; watermelon eating contests, bubble gum blowing contests, Bowyer Drive will be on stage July 19; Thomas Rhett will perform on July 19. Also on the schedule are pet parades, garden tractor pull competitions, horseshow pitching, arm wrestling, truck pulls, ATV pulls, Chase Liden and Greg Bates will perform on July 20.
Fair officials said they have applied for grant funding, which if granted will help with a handicapped parking area and lights for the horse area to bring in additional events.
"We are by no means in jeopardy funding-wise, but we have looked better," Zoller said.
Commissioner Blair Couch suggested the board hold a meeting with state legislators, county commissioners and other officials at the fairgrounds to discuss concerns and issues.
"Your event draws a lot of people into the area, and those at the state level need to know how many," Couch said.
Zoller said state funding has continually been reduced for the fair, with the current level at about $7,400. The funds come through the Department of Culture and History, he said.
The county recently reduced the percentage of hotel/motel tax the fair receives.
"Based on the increased dollars coming in from the hotel tax though, you should be receiving the same dollar amount," Couch said. The percentage for the fair went from 4 percent to 3.75 percent, under the county's 2013-2014 budget projection 3.75 percent is expected to generate $25,177 for the fair.
"We are very grateful for everything the county does for us, but we were the only organization that had their percentage lowered," Parsons said.
"We've provided you additional assistance when you've asked for it in the past as needed," Couch said.
"As things change, we will rearrange those percentages," Dunn said, referring to the hotel/motel tax revenue.
Zoller and Parsons noted the fair is a volunteer effort, including the board members.