The sleepy little town of Hillsboro came bustling to life last weekend for the 17th Annual Little Levels Heritage Fair. For the second year in a row, the fair was held on the spacious grounds surrounding the Pearl S. Buck Birthplace.
The fair kicked off on Friday with a barbecue, live music, arts and crafts, and the traditional Fireman’s Parade. Public Disturbance played rock music at the Sydenstricker House early in the day, followed by the Stompin’ Creek Bluegrass Band and Rush Run Philharmonics. Tours of the Birthplace were provided throughout the weekend.
Saturday saw a full slate of fun activities, including a horse show – the first in the fair’s 17-year history. The event commemorated the grand horse shows held at Academy in the early twentieth century. Hillsboro was formerly known as Academy, due to the presence of a prestigious boarding school.
Saturday’s horse show was a simple affair with just one prize – the People’s Choice Award. Mya Workman, of Hillsboro, won the award with her pony, Flicka.
Several arts and crafts vendors occupied a midway on the Birthplace grounds. Among the vendors were members of the West Virginia Woodturners Association, who demonstrated their skill on two wood lathes.
Bob Nickell, of Lewisburg, was carving a whistle from a spinning piece of maple.
“Today, we’re turning whistles and spin-tops and representing the woodturners of West Virginia,” he said. “We’re turning some stuff for Pearl Buck for them to sell in their craft shop.
The woodturners donated merchandise worth $200 to the Pearl S. Buck Birthplace and Museum.
“The group was formed eight years ago in Lewisburg,” said Nickell. “We had four members – now, we have 42 members, scattered across West Virginia and Virginia. Woodturning is very relaxing. It’s a good hobby.”
Fonzie Fitzwater, a retired coal miner from Dawson, started woodturning seven years ago. The former miner displayed a collection of beautiful wooden bowls for sale.
“I retired and didn’t have anything else to do, so my wife suggested this,” he said. “I tried it and I liked it. It’s much more fun than mining coal.”
Nickell invited people interested in woodturning to check out the group’s website at wvwoodturners.com.
Rebecca Weaver, of Richwood, was impressed with the selection of crafts.
“It’s wonderful – I mean it’s really, really great,” she said. “We’ve bought several pieces of merchandise – birdhouses and bowls. My husband and I love this stuff. I know now when it’s going to be, so I’ll absolutely be back next year.”
Pat Everett, of Warrington, Virginia, was enjoying her visit.
“I love it, I really do,” she said. “I’m so glad we came through. We’ve read Pearl S. Buck’s books all of our lives, but I never knew this was here. This is great. I love it. I’m not a real traveler, so this is great for me. This is just as much traveling as I like to do.”
Everett toured the Birthplace and then enjoyed lunch at the fair.
“The barbecue chicken was really good,” she said. “That was a good dinner over there.”
Vaughn Judson, of Marlinton, was preparing a walking float – The Spirit of The Greenbrier River – for the fair’s parade. The giant turquoise model of a young woman’s face represents the spirit of the Greenbrier River.
“I just love the river,” said Judson. “After you get on the river, you know the spirit is there. She needs protection, just like the river does. She’s pure and young and good-looking and magical.”
Victoria Rose and Kylie Thompson, of Hillsboro, assisted Judson with the Spirit’s long-reaching hands during the parade.
The parade lined up at the fairgrounds at the Birthplace and proceeded through downtown Hillsboro. It was short but colorful. A trio of girls led the parade with a fair banner, followed by ladies in period costume and Confederate re-enactors. The Spirit of The Greenbrier River came next, followed by all of the horses from the horse show. An impressive line of classic cars passed by, and then vintage tractors. Last, but not least, came a vintage Dodge M-37 troop carrier from WWII, carrying children instead of soldiers, and dispensing candy instead of bullets.
The Hillsboro Library hosted a baked goods, books and beverages sale. Library Director Elwood Groves said both fiction and non-fiction books were selling well. Food items were nearly sold out by mid-afternoon.
Sunday’s events included an ice cream social, live music, and closing vespers at McNeel Cemetery.
Gail Hyer, with the Pocahontas County Convention and Visitors Bureau, considered the event a success.
“I think it was a great event,” she said. “The parade had a lot more horses in it and a lot of old time cars. It seems from the parking lot, there’s a few more people than last year. Great music, great food, great crafts. So, it seems like it was a win-win.”
2014 Little Levels Heritage Fair Contest Winners
Parade Winners: Best of Show – Best Theme Float – “Let’s Go to the Horse Show” – Tom VanReenen family; People’s Choice – Equine Parade Marshall – Mia Workman, age 7, on Flicka. Walking Single: First place – Rachel Felton; second – John Groves. Walking Group: First place – Summer and Tara Hall; second – Vaughn Judson.
Tractor Unrestored: First place – Doug Scott; second – Doug Scott; third – J. J. Riley. Tractor Restored:
First place – Joe Hollandsworth; second – Terry McMillion; third – Sherry McMillion
Vintage Automobiles: First place – Joel Callison; second – Loy Burgess; third – Delores McLaughlin.