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Jackson Co. Junior Fair

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MIKE RUBEN / The State Journal. Youth activities take place across the fairgrounds at the Jackson County Junior Fair, including the horse arena. MIKE RUBEN / The State Journal. Youth activities take place across the fairgrounds at the Jackson County Junior Fair, including the horse arena.
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Junior Fair Geared for Jackson County’s Youth

By MIKE RUBEN

mruben@statejournal.com

Don’t be misled by the name. The Junior Fair is a big-time event each summer in Jackson County.

The week-long fair attracts in excess of 25,000 spectators. More than 100 campsites are sold-out well in advance. The annual market livestock auction generates more than $350,000 for the area’s youth. And the stage entertainment features top acts from Nashville.

Why is the fair so popular? John Curry, the 12th year president of the governing Jackson County Junior Fair Association, says it’s become a summer tradition for generations.

“It’s like a big family reunion,” Curry said of the event at the Jackson County Farm near Cottageville, six miles west of Ripley. “There are families who plan their summer vacation around the fair. We’ll have a waiting list for the campsites. You see a lot of the same families there year after year. We’re about maxed out on room.”

This year’s event is scheduled July 21-26.

Agricultural fairs have been documented in Jackson County as early as 1877. Fairs took place over the years in various locations such as Ravenswood, Ripley and Kenna. The Jackson County Farmers Stock & Mechanical Exposition at Evans included horseracing and stock car racing, according to “Jackson County Past and Present,” a book compiled by the local historical society.

The present association was organized in the 1950s, conducting the fair at the Cedar Lakes Conference Center for a decade. Originally known as the Jackson County Poor Farm, the current location has been the fair’s permanent site since 1970.

Unlike other county fairs, the event is directly connected with organizations designed for the youth, according to Curry. He got involved through his own children and says he’s now looking forward to seeing his grandchildren continue the tradition.

“The FFA (Future Farmers of America), the 4-H clubs and the fair work hand in hand,” he said. “We have events and entertainment for all ages, but we actually concentrate on the kids.”

The 400-animal market auction is a prime example. Conducted from 11 a.m. until 11 p.m. on the Friday of fair week, the county’s dedicated youth can cash in on months of caring for animals from rabbits to steer. Curry said the auction gets tremendous support, especially from the business community.

“(The auction) keeps growing and growing,” said Curry, who manages the water department for the City of Ripley. “I don’t know how to explain it. Every year they support the fair and the kids down there.

Some of the fair leaders are involved due to the nature of their jobs. The local office of the West Virginia University Extension Service plays a big role along with the award-winning agricultural departments at Ripley High and Ravenswood High. It also takes dozens of volunteers to make the fair a success, according to Curry.

“We pull from so many people,” he said, noting volunteers serve as the 4-H leaders, supervise the various livestock barns and helped to build several of the fairground facilities. “I would say that we have more than 100 volunteers working during fair week.”

This year’s stage lineup is comprised of a blend of entertainment legends with up-and-coming acts.

The country music duo of Dan + Shay will be on stage at 8 p.m. July 22. Bluegrass icon Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys will perform at 8 p.m. July 23. The six-member country/Christian group Diamond Rio will be on stage at 8 p.m. July 24. Christian music’s Guy Penrod, formerly of the Gaither Vocal Band, will perform at 8 p.m. July 25. The finale July 26 will feature shows by singer/songwriter Austin Webb at 7 p.m. and Jamie Lynn Spears, the younger sister of superstar Britney Spears, at 9 p.m.

Motorsport events include a truck and tractor pull, mud bog, ATV races and demolition derby. The Fair pageant is scheduled July 12 at Ripley High School.

Daily admission is $8 for adults and $5 for youth. Season passes are available for $25 (adults) and $10 (youth). Admission prices exclude carnival rides and attractions.

See jcjf.com for information.