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The W. Va. State Fair, Forward Wheeling, July 1931

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▶ Wheeling Island Fairgrounds

-from the Wheeling Chamber of Commerce publication,"Forward Wheeling," July 1931, pg. 6-7

The W. Va. State Fair

One of Wheeling's Outstanding  Amusement Events

By Mrs. Bert H. Swartz, Secretary W. Va. State Fair Association

On September 6th, 1931, will commence the fifty-first annual exhibition of the West Virginia State Fair. It will hold the spotlight in Wheeling for the entire week beginning with Labor Day and closing the night of September 12th. And, strange as this may seem in a period when everybody is singing the blues because Of hard times, this Fair will live up to the long-adopted slogan of its sponsors, "bigger and better than ever." The standards of the institution, it might be said in passing, are being maintained with the greatest difficulty in the face of prevailing conditions, and only through the help and co-operation Of many loyal friends and public-spirited citizens has the Fair been able to plan such a pretentious showing this year.

Historically Speaking

The first West Virginia State Fair was held in 1881, although other Fairs, under different organizations, had been held in Wheeling even prior to the Civil War. Throughout the first thirty-four years, with the exception of one four-year period, Anton Reymann acted as president while, with the exception of three years, George Hook served continuously as Secretary. Throughout the history of the Fair, among the most prominent citizens of Wheeling have served on its Lutz, Otto Schenk, C. N. Hancher, W. H. Koch, E. W. Houser, C. H. Hunter, H. W. Gee, and G. S. Wills, who was later succeeded by A. C. Spurr. In 1930, Mr. Hannan passed away, and Mr. Koch was chosen chairman of the committee, while board of directors.

In 1915, the management changed, George W. Lutz being elected president, an office he has held ever since, Otto Schenk, vice president, Charles N. Hancher, treasurer, and Bert H. Swartz, secretary. In 1928 Mr. Swartz died and was succeeded in office by his widow, who still serves as secretary. In 1924, sole responsibility for the Fair was placed in the hands of an executive committee of nine members, headed by George W. Hannan as chairman and composed of Messrs. George F. G. Stroehmann was elected to membership. The board of directors at present consists of Messrs. W. E. Stone, H. W. McLure, H. F. Behrens, J. H. Koch, R. M. Browne, W. E. Weiss, C. H. Copp, George W. Lutz, Otto Schenk, C. N. Hancher, E. W. Houser, C. H. Hunter, W. H. Koch, H. W. Gee, A. C. Spurr, Fred G. Stroehmann, H. L. Mitchell, M. C. Hine, and Lee C. Paull. Messrs. George E. Stifel and Hal Speidel were members of the board from the reorganization in 1915 until their death last spring.

Civic Nature

As may be readily realized, with such a personnel in charge, the Fair has been conducted as a civic enterprise, in the interest of state and community betterment, and not for the profit or aggrandizement of any individual or organization. It has required a great deal of time, effort and expense of its directors, not to mention donations of money and service to its cause, although it has never asked for one penny of contributions from anybody outside of the directorate. Such help as it solicits from merchants and business men, such as the renting of space for exhibits, is of a nature that makes it far more valuable to the donor than to the recipient.

Educational Value

The Fair emphasizes the development, not only of agricultural progress, but of advancement in all lines. It particularly stresses the importance of the boy and girl in our social life through its activities for the 4-H Club (farm) boys and girls and the exhibits of vocational training work by school children.


The experience of these expositions having proven the truth of the saying, "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy," the shrewd Fair manager always spices the educational dish it offers with a liberal seasoning of entertainment. The West Virginia State Fair is always unexcelled in the quality of its entertainment program, and this year will prove no exception to that rule. In fact, the amusement program this year will prove more pleasing, perhaps, to many people because of its novelty.

U. S. Cavalry in Action

For instance, as a departure from the usual routine of Fair acts, a platoon of United States cavalry will be brought to the Fair, where they will make local subjects of Uncle Sam acquainted with the skill and daring of his cavalry troop by their spectacular exhibitions of gymnastic riding, machine gun drill and cavalry maneuvers. Anyone who has been fortunate enough to see cavalrymen ride knows that, as equestrians, they have circus performers completely outclassed.

Night Attractions

A sensational night show of all-star spectacular attractions, climaxed by a gorgeous fireworks display, will be presented in front of the grand stand, while an entirely different show will hold forth each night in the mammoth exposition building. With the dancing each night, swimming in the finest and largest pool in West Virginia, an attractive midway made up of permanent park rides and features, supplemented by many traveling shows and concessions, the Fair each day and evening has plenty to offer amusement hungry patrons.


Chief of the attractions of the Fair to many visitors is the racing. The "Sport of Kings" will not only be a daily attraction at the Fair from Labor Day on, but it will furnish thrills and enjoyment to race fans for nine days in advance of the Fair, starting August 27th. While under general supervision of the Wheeling Driving Club and its officers, its detail management will be entirely new, some of the most experienced and popular race officials and workers having been engaged to put on sport of a kind that will undoubtedly please the thousands of Fair visitors.

Feature Act

As usual there will be several first class acts in the afternoon and evening performances before the grandstand. This year the Fair is particularly fortunate in having one of the most spectacular and biggest drawing acts on the carnival circuit today. This consists of a high dive from a 100 foot tower into a flaming pool. This is particularly spectacular at the night show when the diver himself is completely aflame throughout the beautiful and thrilling act.

Then after the night show each night, patrons will be entertained by a marvelous display of fireworks. Every effort has been made to assure the people of Wheeling the greatest and most spectacular pyrotechnic displays available.

Altogether, the fifty-first annual West Virginia State Fair should measure up to, and in some respects surpass, its predecessors, again making true its slogan: “Bigger and better than ever."

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