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10-day Fayette County Fair begins

Lori C. Padilla | for the Daily Courier
The first of many events in the outdoor arena kicked off on Thursday evening with the demolition derby at the Fayette County Fair. Plenty of mud and smoke flew through the air as several modified cars smashed and crashed into each other. For more from the fair, see page A5.

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Bill Jackson, president of the Fayette County Fair Board, is predicting that more than 100,000 people will attend the 10-day event if the weather cooperates this year.

“We've flirted with 100,000 people a few times in the past, but we've never made it,” Jackson said on Thursday just moments before the opening ceremonies of the 59th annual Fayette County Fair.

“Weather permitting, we should be pretty close this year,” he added, indicating that all of the fair's popular events will be returning this year. Those include monster trucks, motocross and three demolition derbies.

“We're really excited that The Clarks will be playing tomorrow night (Friday),” he said. “Parmalee, a popular country band, will also be featured. The Hubcaps, an oldies band, will take the stage on Sunday night. Closing night will feature Hillbilly Way, which includes several members of the well-known country band, the Povertyneck Hillbillies.”

Although the names of the performers change every year, Jackson said, the fair format remains the same.

During the opening ceremony, he told the crowd that the first night of last year's fair began with a tornado warning and severe thunderstorms.

“We're very excited about tonight's weather,” he said on Thursday. “We haven't had an opening night that has been this nice in years. We're keeping our fingers crossed that this is a sign that we're going to have great weather this year.”

Catherine Work, a 12-year-old 4-H Club member from Uniontown, sang the national anthem.

“4-H is a big part of the fair,” Jackson said. “I don't think people realize that the fair is made up of a lot of volunteers. We also have volunteer fair board members and elected officials who work to make this event a success every year.”

State Sen. Rich Kasunic, D-Dunbar, believes the Fayette County Fair is the best one in Pennsylvania.

“The volunteers work year-round to make this event a success,” Kasunic said. “I hope everyone has a great time at this year's fair that offers something for everybody. This is something we should be proud of. Hopefully, there will be no rain for the next 10 days.”

The county's agriculture is the main focus of the fair, Jackson said.

“We do have a lot of food and entertainment, but the most important part of the fair is to get people to come out to learn something about the local agriculture,” he said.

Boots Heatherington of the state Department of Agriculture said each of the 109 fairs held across Pennsylvania annually is different.

“The fairs provide top-notch shows,” he said. “The state provides operational funding for each of the fairs.”

Although the state has cut funding for the fairs in recent years, Heatherington said, the June 30 budget adopted by the state Legislature restored funding from $2 million to $3 million — the funding that existed prior to the budget cuts.

Heatherington presented Jackson with a check for $21,558.60 for this year's fair and indicated Fayette County would receive a check for $29,000 next year.

Jack Cooper, 84, a longtime fair volunteer, was selected as the Outstanding Fair Ambassador for this year's event, Heatherington said.

“Jack has done a great job with the fair over the years,” he said. “He has served as the poultry superintendent. He is the first guy in the gate in the morning, and he helps the young guys get moving.”

Cindy Ekas is a contributing writer.

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