By Jessica Farrish
The Beckley-Raleigh County YMCA Friends of Coal Auto Fair 2013 is coming back to Beckley for the 10th year, and it’s going to take an extra day and more music to celebrate the anniversary.
This year, country music star Travis Tritt is the featured artist for the Saturday night concert, and Davisson Brothers Band will open for Tritt.
Fairgoers can expect the festivities to start early: The carnival rides open on Thursday, and two local bands are going to rock the stage.
“In times past, it’s been a three-day event,” said YMCA CEO Jay Rist. “But this year, on Thursday, July 18, there’s a 10-year anniversary kick-off, featuring live entertainment with Motion Theatre and Shea.
“They’re a little harder rock than what we’re used to.”
Since 2003 when the fair first opened as a fundraiser to help support the new YMCA Soccer Complex, car buffs and families throughout the region have begun to look forward to the fair, which features displays of classic cars, concerts, carnival rides, fireworks and plenty of fair food and cash prizes.
Last year, the free event “Movie on the Lawn” was added, and this year’s movie will be “Wreck it Ralph.”
Desiree McGann, 12, of Beckley, said she likes the funnel cake and is happy when the fair returns each year.
“Who doesn’t like seeing a carnival being set up?” she asked. “I like all the rides, and I’m very happy (that it’s returning).”
Tajzhane Thompson, 13, of Beckley, said her grandfather takes her to the fair every year.
“My favorite part of the fair are the rides and food,” she said. “Sometimes I bring my friends, but most of the time it’s a family thing.”
The top community-supported event in the state, the fair raises money to support local programs at the Y, Rist said.
The Y operates after-school programs in six elementary schools, the soccer and volleyball programs, youth sports programs, a pre-school, a summer day camp for older kids, swim lessons and various classes and initiatives that promote healthy communities.
“The fair is a big deal for us, for our community and southern West Virginia,” said Rist. “It helps with maintenance and upkeep.
“The businesses and agencies that get involved, plus the coal industry, the attendees, the Y volunteers ... it all comes together on that weekend,” he said. “Every time you buy your concert ticket, you’re making an investment in our future, and our kids’ future.
“You’re having a great time while supporting a cause.”
Rist said on Thursday, July 18, the fairgrounds will open to the public with a $5 cover charge at the YMCA Soccer Complex with performances by Motion Theatre and Shea from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m, and carnival rides.
Friday, July 19, is “Family Night.” The Car Show opens at 10 a.m., with the auto line-up beginning at 6 p.m. for the Uptown Beckley Cruise-in at 7 p.m.
Jada Vance of “American Idol” fame will be performing.
When dusk comes, everyone’s invited to pull out their own blankets and lawn chairs to watch “Wreck it Ralph” for free on the lawn.
Carnival rides and concessions will be available, and kids can enter Napa Auto Parts’ “Kidzone” for inflatables, the Eurobungee and ziplining. A waterslide may be available, Rist said.
Admission to the grounds is $2 for adults and free for kids age 6 and under.
On Saturday, July 20, the show opens at 8 a.m. World-famous mine safety competition teams will perform mine rescue scenarios on the field until the concert starts. Artie and Ciro, dogs of the award-winning Beckley Police Department K-9 Unit, will be doing demonstrations with their trainers, Cpl. J.W. Legursky and Cpl. J.H. Blume.
At 2 p.m., car show entrants will be revving up their engines and creating a bunch of smoke to “blow up” their tires in the Kreager Tire Burn Competition. The winner gets a set of four new tires, the runner-up gets two new tires, and the third-place tire spinner gets a trophy, Rist said.
The gates open at 6 p.m., with carnival rides and concessions.
Travis Tritt and the Davisson Brothers will perform at 7 p.m., following a speech by Rist.
The Golden Knights won’t be making a return this year, said Rist.
The evening ends with a fireworks display.
Grounds admission is $2 for adults, with kids 6 and under getting admitted free.
Signs on Interstate 64 and Stanaford Road will direct traffic to parking at Beckley-Stratton Junior High School, and free shuttle service will take fairgoers to the complex.
On Sunday, July 21, everything is free, Rist said.
“There’s no shuttle service, no showground admission,” he said. “Everybody can check out the vendors and cars.”
Awards will be presented Sunday, following a 10 a.m. nondenominational church service at the Pavilion.
Participants get cash prizes for driving the longest distance, Best Representing Car Club, and the Hardest Luck Award — granted to the person who had the “worst luck” in getting to the event.
Rist said that each year, the Carrico family in Beckley holds its annual family reunion in tandem with the car show.
“One Carrico family comes way out of Florida,” said Rist. “Their trailer tires blew out; they had a couple of incidents. The Hardest Luck Award is always fun, especially as people submit their stories.”
The Carrico family won the award in 2012, he said.
The 2013 fair ends at 2 p.m. Sunday.