Betty King enjoys a spin on the carousel. Stephen Igo.
WISE — Even 100 years along, a special day for the kids-at-heart crowd never gets old at the VA-KY District Fair & Horse Show.
Thursday was Senior Citizens Day at the Wise County Fairgrounds. A few hours are set aside from late morning through early afternoon so the kid inside, age be hanged, can go outside and play and romp to it’s heart’s content. For who can say a light heart cannot play, or even romp?
Many seniors at the fairgrounds Thursday have been around darn near as long as the fair itself, which dissuaded few from taking a whirl on the carousel or knowing again that childish wonder and delight of a visit with livestock at McDonald’s Farm.
That’s where 79-year-old Roosevelt Stanley of Esserville in Norton stood with his new hen, a poult of far more tender age. A Wise County native, Stanley is a fair regular, particularly after a 30-year stretch living in Northern Virginia making a living as an “over the road” big rig driver before retiring and moving back to his home stomping grounds.
“I just came in to buy me a chicken,” he said, a mission of mercy for his rooster back at home. Stanley said a possum made off with his rooster’s last gal friend, “so I figured I’d better get him a mate,” the rooster being in a rather mournful state lately.
As a boy who grew up in the Hurricane section of Wise County, Stanley remembers the fair before there was a fairgrounds.
“I used to go to the fair when it was where the county school headquarters is now. Back then, me and my buddies would hang around on the last night to help ’em break down and pack up so’s we could make a few bucks,” he said. “Nowadays it looks like it all just rolls and folds right up. I don’t believe there’s as much a need to tear down so you can pack it all up like there used to be.”
Edith Davis, Molly Calton and Mildred Jennings, all of Wise and all almost certainly at least 18 years of age, sheltered themselves under umbrellas while enjoying a picnic repast near the Main Stage to the music provided by the band, Fine Cut Grass.
The trio was gracious and rather pleased to pose for a photograph.
“Must I keep the umbrella?” asked one. “I shouldn’t wish to hide my face.” Reassured no umbrella could possibly hide loveliness, she kept it up.
Local attorney Brent Fleming hustled around the small army of seniors making sure all their needs were met.
Fleming has volunteered to work Senior Citizens Day at the fair for the last three years, no doubt persuaded into the cause by his father-in-law, retired Realtor Jim Manicure, who Fleming said “has been doing it longer than I can remember.”
“Seniors Day is so much fun because you’re just so appreciated,” he said. “We get ’em some bluegrass and get ’em some bingo and then we feed ’em. And the (James H. Drew Exposition) has graciously offered rides on the carousel, for free.”
Thursday’s patrons of the fair hailed from residential origins like Heritage Hall and The Laurels, or got brought to the fairgrounds by Mountain Empire Older Citizens Inc., Fleming said. “Look. They’re happy and they’re having a blast,” he said.
Two more days for all others to have a blast remain for the 100th VA-KY District Fair & Horse Show. Junior pageants will begin at 7 p.m. Friday, the same time for the motocross competition. Kids Day will be reprised on Saturday from noon through 6 p.m. when $10 will get a kid all the carnival rides he or she can handle, and Folk Soul Revival will perform at the Main Stage at 9 p.m.
Gates open at 4 p.m. on Friday and 11 a.m. on Saturday. Admission is $8 for ages 12 and up, $2 for ages 6-11, and kids 5 and under admitted free. One price rides for $20 are available from 5-11 p.m.