The Appalachian Fair has meant food, fun and entertainment for generations of area residents. From the Ferris wheel to the blue-ribbon entries for canned food, the Appalachian Fair represents the last hurrah of summer for those who make the annual trek to the fairgrounds in Gray.
The official theme of this year’s week-long fair, which gets under way Monday, is “Celebrating 85 Years of Memories.” This year’s festivities promise to be bigger and better than ever, but they will be somewhat bittersweet. Earlier this year, Richard Shadden, the longtime secretary of the fair, died at the age of 67.
Shadden was the heart and soul of the fair. Under his leadership, the event was able to change with the times while retaining its roots in family entertainment.
Shadden would be proud of the entertainment lineup scheduled to appear at this year’s fair. The Army’s Golden Knights parachute team returns for three performances next week.
Live music has been a prime draw to the fair. This year is no exception, with up-and-comers Jerrod Niemann, Thompson Square and Bradley Gaskin scheduled to take the stage.
Of course, no visit to the fair would be complete without a stroll through the main buildings to inspect the award-winning entries for needlework and crafts.
The first fair was a half-day event held at Gray Elementary School in 1926. In the following years, it grew into a three-day and then a six-day event. The fair as we know it today began taking shape in 1952 when Washington County donated 5 acres near the school to become a permanent home for the event. Both children and their parents rejoiced when the James Drew Exposition came to the fair in the late 1960s, bringing rides that still excite and thrill fairgoers today.
As we’ve said in this space many times before, the Appalachian Fair has become as much a part of local Americana as cotton candy or funnel cake. Shadden knew that while the times may change, the fun could remain the same at the fair.