I arrived in Fairmont on Wed. August 2. I made phone calls to various people to firm up meeting times and commitments.
Thursday August 3
At 10 am I went to Mannington and met Rana Taylor, the new head of Mannington Main Street. Rana has been very good with returning email and phone calls. We walked and talked about the rails to trails program. We stopped by her house and talked to her husband about when the rails had started being pulled and he thought it was after 2000. At the time of the ROF the train station was being used as a shoe store by the current mayor. While at Rana’s house her husband mentioned “The Cut”, by the railroad bridge at Howard Street. This was a cut through the terrain for the railroad which took the railroad up up Buffalo Creek to the Dent’s run coal mine.
Rana and I then traveled by car to the trail over by the senior center. She mentioned there that the computer manufacturer who had been in the big building off of Virginia street had auctioned some items off just the previous year.
After dropping Rana off I ate lunch and then went to visit Meredith Dixon who lives just beyond the Round Barn. She has since introduced herself on the bar, so if you are interested in what books she has (some 8,000), please contact her.
Thursday evening I got as many attendees together as possible and presented the plan for Friday and Saturday. Many people had been late showing up, and most were not interested in doing any walking, so the walking tour was canceled.
Friday August 4th
In the morning we all went to Blackshere elementary school where the Principal, Richard Pelligrin, guided us around the school and answered many questions. The area of service for the k-4 school contains 15,000 people and they can hold as many as 550 students. Roughly 1/4 to 1/3 of all teachers are located in the Mannington area and nearly all teacher aides and staff. One interesting tidbit: they have an outside classroom area with a fish pond and a gazebo which is quite lovely.
Another tidbit: Becky Brown, Richard Pelligrin’s secretary, attended the Bower’s Mansion auction for three days, including the book day. She said she would mail me the auction lists. She also said that there was a lot of European history and Native American history books, but not many science books.
After the Elementary school we went to the high school where we were met by Claudia Schrader and her son Chip, who had just graduated from North Marion. Both Claudia and Chip live near Mannington and have read several of the 163x books. The principal, Judd Ashcraft, gave her a master key and she showed us around the gym and various classrooms.
At this point the group split up and several of us went to see Meredith Dixon. Meredith showed us her book shed and answered questions about titles and genres. At my request she had brought several books out from her house that her husband had kept from his college days. These included a number of titles involved with electronics and electricity, including one on medical instrumentation and another on electric machinery.
Everyone rendezvoused at a new restaurant in Mannington called the Hero’s cafe, and Claudia and Meredith joined the group at lunch. It is a small cafe that holds about 35-40 people max and it opened in Jan. 2006.
After lunch people went to various places including the old episcopalian church that Claudia owns (the large white building on the corner of high and clarksburg), and to visit the coal mining exhibit.
Saturday August 5th
About 8 people went to listen to Patty Anderson of the West Augusta Historical Society talk about the history of the Mannington fair. She was a very interesting person to talk with. The fair originally got its start in 1932 when it was held in what was termed “trader’s alley” near the Bartlett Hotel. She remembers when Dolly Parton and Porter Wagner sang at the Fair, as well as Jimmy Dickens and Tex Ritter. The West Virginia room was the white building along 250 used for meetings and music starting roughly in 1950.
We walked over to the bleachers and met the vice-president of the fair association, Jack Wilson. We talked to Jack for some time and he recalled several interesting tidbits: Coon hunters use the bottom of the West Virginia building for their meetings in Late-August and October, the best food at the fair was steak sandwiches made by Bob Minas, and there are 3-4 people in Mannington with foxhounds. Jack himself has 8.
Saturday afternoon I participated in a plotting session for future novels and the direction of the series.
Saturday evening after dinner I brought out the minicon 2006 cake I had purchased, complete with ring of fire in orange frosting. Then I gave a short lecture on the Ottoman Empire, complete with maps.
Sunday August 6th
Did laundry to remove the smoke smell from most of my clothes and then went out to Mannington. I walked through “The Cut” all the way to where the old tracks had hit Buffalo street just after Dent’s run road. The tracks had run just on the backside of the fairgrounds quite close to Buffalo creek and only 50-60 above the level of the creek, much lower than a number of people had estimated.
Monday August 7th
This was the first day of the Mannington fair. I came out early and noted that people were getting chairs ready on their lawns to watch the fair. Fairgrounds opened up at 5 pm, but you could wander through earlier. Cost was 5 dollars. At 5:50 pm the police shut down the road into Mannington and at 6 pm a siren sounded and the parade started. I watched the parade from the grass along the bank of Buffalo Creek near the community center. The first thing you hear is the noise of sirens and horns echoing off the hills to your left, which is confusing because the parade comes from your right as you face the road. First in line was the honor guard with boy scouts. Then came the mayor’s car, 3 police cars, the parade marshall’s car, and a rescue ambulance. Immediately following them was a fire engine with the North Marion football team in their jerseys on top. Then an ATV and a Monster truck. There then was a gap of about 200 yards and a men’s group wearing red fezzes and white shirts riding three wheeled go-carts. 200 yards back of them came a number of fair and festival queens riding in convertibles. Then came the North Marion marching band with cheerleaders up front, roughly 35-50 kids in the band. They were followed by about 15 kids from the middle school band. The bands turned off on Franklin street. More convertibles with the smaller fair queens, a truck-pulled float with a dozen 4H people and a cute red barn, politicians, and so on. I left at that point but the parade went on from roughly 6 pm to 7:40 pm. The last part of the parade were the horseriders.
In terms of the fairgrounds themselves, the community building is used for agricultural exhibits. Underneath are booths where people sold clothes, hanging some of them from the beams that supported the floor, booths for churches and politicians. This was also one of the coolest places at the fairground, as there seemed to be a bit of a breeze underneath. In the large grassy area next to the community building were all the rides. A ferris wheel, lots of various circular rides, a crossbow shooting gallery, dart gallery, and magic show. In the parking lot below the pool was a big speaker for the radio station that was playing on location. After crossing Buffalo creek on he pedestrian bridges you come to the food area. Peppers, Funnel cakes, cheese steaks, corn dogs, italian and polish sausages, lemonade. When I asked a couple of high school girls what food they thought was really good at the fair they mentioned deep fried twinkies, oreos and snickers.
As you pass the food areas you come to the barrel racing arena on the right. Above this ring on a small rise are buildings housing the horses. This is also the ring where they do the horse pulling contest in teams of two horses. The divisions are lightweight, mediumweight, heavyweight and Belgian. The horse show is more limited with just Halter and Western Pleasure. No rodeo at the time of the ROF.
As you move towards the parking lot area, which is a large grassy area along Buffalo creek that extends all the way to chestnut avenue, you see a demolition derby arena on your left and a circular venue called “The wall of death” where stunt motorcycles are ridden around on a wall inside a circular pavilion. Exiting the gate (heading due south) you are confronted with the grassy parking area which extends for probably at least a hundred acres.
If anyone has any questions about the minicon or the fair, ask away.