Best of Show


Amber Riley of Wellsburg, W.Va., cleans up one of the family’s cows from Rip-Valley Farm at the 2016 West Alexander Fair.

The calendar ushers autumn about three weeks from now, but Labor Day weekend marks the unofficial end of summer.

Washington Countians and those from the tri-state area have one last summer fair in which to participate, the West Alexander Fair, which begins Monday, Sept. 2, and ends Saturday, Sept. 7.

“This is the last chance,” said Barbara Reed, secretary-treasurer of the West Alex fair. “The next week all the fall festivals start. If you haven’t been to a fair, come to West Alexander.

“We’re still $8 and admission includes everything except food. That’s less than a movie ticket and you can do grandstands and rides, musical entertainment and livestock.”

There is no separate parking fee at the fairgrounds, at 116 Route 40 West.

In-state entrants in the showcase baking contests will have a chance to advance to January’s Pennsylvania Farm Show for angel food cake, chocolate cake, blue-ribbon apple pie and Pennsylvania Preferred Junior cookie, brownie or bar. Judging the finished products of homemade recipes is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. on Labor Day.

Four hopefuls will be competing for the title of West Alexander fair queen: Isabella Lawry, Ashlie McCullough, Abbie Cerciello and MacKenzie Simpson. The contest will begin 6 p.m. Monday.

The fair queen reigns for the rest of the year, advancing, as in years past, to statewide competition.

The biggest bargain at the fair is probably the quilt raffle, sewn from entrants in last year’s patchwork block contest, “Baskets of Blessings,” which will be displayed all week and awarded to the lucky winner at a drawing on Saturday.

In the offseason, the 12-inch-by-12-inch squares were assembled and quilted by the members of the Dorcas group, named for a New Testament seamstress, at West Alexander First Christian Church.

This year’s theme for a 2020 quilt is “Black and White Plus One.” The blocks are judged but not returned to contestants.

There are approximately 20 contestants for the 2020 quilt, an increase from last year.

“We’ve done a quilt block contest probably at least the past five years,” Reed said. “It’s at least a full size.”

Don’t look for breeding swine at this year’s West Alex fair because of African swine fever, a virus that impacts pigs, not people.

There will be 4-H market hogs, all of which must go directly from the sale to slaughter, according to a notice from the state Department of Agriculture.

“As far as we know, it’s not in the U.S.,” Reed said. “Pennsylvania is the only state that’s being proactive on this that we’re aware of, according to what the swine people tell us.”

Recently, the hemorrhagic disease has spread among pigs in China, Mongolia and Vietnam and has reached 10 countries within the European Union, according to a June posting in the Pennsylvania Bulletin.

Show tent events feature the McGuffey High School marching band, 6 p.m. Tuesday, followed by Crandall Creek band of the Ohio Valley, singing and playing folk and bluegrass music at 8 p.m.; Wheeling Park High School steel drum band at 6 p.m. Thursday, followed by Back Up Plan variety band from the Ohio Valley; singer Stevie Lynn at 2:30 p.m. Saturday and the Joseph Sisters of Wheeling, members of the Country Music Association, who will perform at 8 p.m. Saturday.

“We try to get entertainment from both sides of the line,” said Reed, a Donegal Township resident.

Agritainment events include a pedal-power pull at 1 p.m. Monday, demolition derbies at 7 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, arenacross quads and motocross racing at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, tractor pull at 2 p.m. Saturday and farmers’ olympics at 8 p.m. the final day of the fair.

During fair week, Jeff Kotula, on behalf of the Washington County Tourism Promotion Agency, the Washington County commissioners and the fair board will be cutting a ribbon at the American Legion’s rebuilt concession stand at 1 p.m. Wednesday.

Tourism, the Day family, the auxiliary of West Alexander Legion Post 656 and the Steel City Pullers contributed to the project.

Shorty’s Lunch of Washington, a local landmark since 1932, will provide the hot dogs for the eating contest at 7 p.m. Friday, open to the first dozen hungry people who register from 5:30 to 6 p.m. in the show tent. Participants must be at least 16 years old to enter.

“It’s just a week full of something for everyone,” Reed said.

“I think everyone should attend a fair.”

West Alexander’s fair is among three Southwestern Pennsylvania town fairs, closing out the season that begins with Greene County’s Jacktown Fair in July, and includes Beaver County’s Hookstown Fair in August.

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