Every community has its annual celebrations. In Pocahontas County it’s Pioneer Days and the Autumn Harvest Festival. In Greenbrier County you have The Chocolate Festival, The Dandelion Festival, Taste of Our Town, and the grand daddy of them all, the State Fair of West Virginia. But in Monroe County there’s only one super event: Farmer’s Day, happening this year for the 64th time on Friday and Saturday, June 1 and 2 in Union, the county seat, located on US 219 just a half hour south of Lewisburg on US 219.
Why “Farmer’s Day”? The feeling in Monroe is that farmers have the most important job of all, producing safe and affordable food for the world, and they deserve a day in their honor. Monroe’s geography is well suited for livestock, especially cattle and sheep, with rolling hills and pastures, and stock raising has been a major activity for over about 250 years – and Farmer’s Day has a definitely old fashioned feel – like a small town celebration a century ago.
Why the first weekend in June? Lots of farmers don’t start their hay harvest until after the first of June, so Farmer’s Day falls at the beginning of summer harvest activities.
The festivities kick off Friday night with a street dance from 8 to 11p on the grocery store parking lot – that’s right THE grocery store. Union is a small town, There are no stop lights, but it does boast the only four way stop in Monroe County. The band will be Unruly Elders, a group of 50-somethings who cover the songs of their youth
Most activities are on Saturday, with a pancake breakfast from 7 to 10am and the parade at 11am. Most every festival has a King and Queen, but Farmer’s Day royalty is a little different; they are selected from among the most experienced farmers in the county, and wear straw hats, not crowns.
There are a variety of activities in the afternoon, almost all taking place in a few blocks downtown: a cook off, kids activities, a horseshoe pitching contest, an antique car show on Main Street – and of course lots of food booths, operated by local civic groups and churches. The Horse Show is at 1:30, just half a mile from downtown out the Willow Bend Road. Farmer’s Day is a low key, family-friendly event – No surging crowds, no blasting noise, just a lot of people having fun in a low-pressure atmosphere.
Local musicians will play all afternoon on a stage across from the Courthouse, starting at noon. There is a raffle, with your choice of a John Deere Gator or $10,000 as the first prize. Drawings for prizes will start at 4pm, with the grand prize going at 8. Country music bands will play from 4 to 8, when the day’s activities wrap up, and planning starts for Farmer’s Day 2019.
– Gibbs Kinderman. HashtagWV #101. May 2018. (photos provided by Bob Mann)