NEW MANCHESTER - This year's Hancock County Oldtime Fair, taking place Friday through Sunday at Tomlinson Run State Park, will have all the attractions of last year, with one exception: Animals will be noticeably absent.
Fair officials decided to eliminate livestock judging and showing this year after the livestock committee raised liability concerns about the potential for E. coli infections, said Jim Harvey, fair board vice president.
"We were not able to find an insurance agency that was willing to write us a policy to cover us in that area, so we had to make a call on it," Harvey said. "We're liable if anybody does get that. Unfortunately, we weren't able to find any way to get around that."
Humans can contract an E. coli infection by having direct or indirect contact with animal feces. Hancock County Health Department Administrator Jackie Huff said there are no such cases in Hancock County, but precautions such as hand sanitizer stations are highly recommended.
There currently is no ban on livestock at county fairs or petting zoos in West Virginia, said Buddy Davidson, spokesman for the West Virginia Department of Agriculture.
"There is no specific risk in West Virginia and no greater risk than at any other time," Davidson said. "There is always a risk when kids come in contact with farm animals that they could be exposed to E. coli."
Davidson cited a case in North Carolina in 2012 that resulted in the death of a 2-year-old boy who visited a county fair. In 2011, 25 visitors to the North Carolina State Fair contracted E. coli infections that were traced to a livestock building.
Despite such cases, Davidson said West Virginia is experiencing an increase in the number of animal displays at county fairs and petting zoos.
"As people are becoming more interested in what happens on a farm and where their food comes from, we have probably seen more of these," he said.
Harvey said because of the lack of livestock, the Hancock County Oldtime Fair is offering more exhibits and activities this year, including a mountain man demonstration, a ladies quilting demonstration, a display of American Indian artifacts, a display of antique farm equipment and hourly musical entertainment.
"We're trying to make up for the loss of the animals," fair board President Char Conley said. "We're a small fair, but I think we're doing a really good job."
Conley said the fair board is working on a solution to the livestock issue for next year's fair.
Chartered in 1930, the Hancock County Oldtime Fair features exhibits and activities that are meant to hark back to earlier, more traditional fairs - without the noisy rides, greasy french fries and midway games.
Some new features at this year's fair, which runs from Friday through Sunday at Tomlinson Run State Park, include a Kids Bingo at 6 p.m. Friday and a New Manchester Volunteer Fire Department Bingo, Conley said.
Despite the animal ban, the Kiss-a-Donkey Contest will still be held - but with a twist, Conley said. Local funeral directors F. Dike Dawson and Pete Arner will participate at 2 p.m. Sunday.
The pet contest also will be held, but without real pets. Contestants can bring a picture of their pet, which will be displayed with a can for donations. Whichever picture receives the most monetary donations will be the winner, Conley said.
The fair begins at 5 p.m. Friday with the tractor parade on state Route 8, from U.S. Route 30 to the Tomlinson Run State Park entrance. Gates open to the public at 10 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. Admission Saturday and Sunday is $1 per person. Admission on Friday is a non-perishable food item for the FISH food pantry.
Other highlights include:
The Barnyard Olympics at noon Saturday and Sunday;
The Tractor Games at 11 a.m. Saturday and 10:30 a.m. Sunday;
The Homemade Pie Contest at 11 a.m. Saturday;
The Pie Eating Contest at 4 p.m. Saturday;
The Kidz Kookie Kontest at 11 a.m. Saturday;
The Baked Goods Auction at 2 p.m. Sunday;
The American Classic Car Show at 10 a.m. Saturday; and
The Cornhole Contest at 1 p.m. Saturday.
The Barnyard Olympics will allow fair-goers to test their skills at the skillet toss, the rolling pin toss, pie eating and other activities.
The entertainment schedule is as follows:
Friday - 6 p.m., Oak Glen High School sophomore Luis Neer;
Saturday - 1 p.m., John Heiserman; 2 p.m., Bud Simmons and Jim Tate; 3 p.m., Spinning Jenny; 4 p.m., Dale and the Boys; 5 p.m., Jim Wetzel; 6 p.m. Tri-State Music; and
Sunday - noon, Awesome Possum; 2 p.m. Newell Church of the Nazarene; 3 p.m., Foggy Hollow.
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