POINT PLEASANT — What do Marie Osmond, southern gospel music and Mason County Fair Queens, all have in common? They have all graced the Mason County Fair Stage which is going through a makeover, thanks to a major grant from the Robert and Louise Claflin Foundation.
The fair stage is obviously a focal point for the annual event, hosting entertainers which in-turn brings visitors to the largest county fair in West Virginia. However, the stage has been showing its age (it’s guessed it was built some time in the 1960’s) and those entertainers are bringing more and more equipment to present the best entertainment for fair goers. Anything worth keeping, is worth saving and that is where the makeover comes in.
The fair board estimates it will cost around $20,000 for the project. Fair Secretary Teddy Thomas is credited with looking to the Claflin Foundation to help fund a significant part of the renovations and filled out all the necessary paperwork to get the ball rolling and roll it did, into a $13,204.30 Claflin grant.
Fair President Shawn Paugh said the Claflin Grant, along with significant donations from Peoples Bank and M and G Polymers, allows the fair board to fund the rest of the project, which will result in a revamped stage where the only piece of the old stage which will remain, is likely the roof. It’s still being decided if the backdrop will remain or needs to be replaced. Paugh also said wiring on the stage will also be revamped.
Paugh said the new stage will basically be the same dimension as the old one, though the new stage will be slightly wider in the front and square. The old stage’s floor was ripped out Monday and it will be filled and concrete poured for the new floor. Paugh said it’s hoped the new stage will be ready to go by May which includes two events on the fair grounds – a car show held on the fair grounds by the New Haven Road Angels, as well as the Mason County Fair Bash.
Brian Billings is the fair board’s first vice president, and is one of the integral voices on the entertainment committee. Billings is usually camped right by the fair stage for each performance.
“I am very thankful for the gracious donation given for the renovation of our fair stage,” Billings said. “Many of the best entertainers out of Nashville and many young ladies vying in the queen pageants have graced our stage. Hundreds of hours have been put into the stage since my involvement with the entertainment back in the early 1980’s. Many fair board members, groundskeepers, my family members and outside individuals have helped me over the years with the stage. The weather most importantly has taken its toll on the stage and simply, it’s just wearing out.”
Stephen Littlepage, who is the administrator of the Claflin Foundation, said this was the first time the fair had come to the foundation for a grant. Littlepage said this grant helps open up a dialogue, and beneficial relationship, between the foundation and fair, noting the fair affects so many people in the area, including children involved in 4-H and FFA.
“We wanted to see what we could do to help the fair be even more successful, for the county and residents…the fair stage hits the nail on the head in that regard,” Littlepage said. “The Claflin Foundation was very interested in the fair stage project because we see it as an enhancement to the fair experience and it’s a necessary project that needs to get done.”
Billings added: “Of course the stage area is a gathering point for many during the six-day event. We (fair personnel) work hard to make a our fair grounds a show place each year. Hundreds of individuals will return to our great county during fair week to visit with family and friends. Our fair is a six-day education, it’s about our youth, those young people who have worked so hard outside of their regular school classroom learning and preparing themselves for the years ahead. The days of Mayberry may be gone but in my heart they live on because of those who stood before me and others who began the process and set the vision for us to have the best fair in West Virginia.”
Reach Beth Sergent at [email protected] or on Twitter @BSergentWrites.