NEW CASTLE —
Could there be a Lawrence County Fair without Virginia Harman?
How would anyone know? It hasn’t happened since 1957.
This week the 92-year-old North Beaver Township woman is extending her incredible streak, which spans seven decades.
As usual, Virginia is being accompanied by a small army at the fairgrounds, which has been a second home to the Harmans ever since Dwight Eisenhower was in the White House.
Attending the Lawrence County Fair is as much a tradition for them as birthdays and holidays.
The only daughter of the late Park and Rubie Metz and widow of Donald “Bucky” Harman, Virginia is the matriarch of the fair’s unofficial first family. She remains an inspiration to a devoted clan that now numbers 64.
“It’s our vacation,” said Dawn Palmer, Virginia’s oldest daughter. “As far back as I can remember it always has been.”
Most of the family — which includes three sons, three daughters, 17 grandchildren, their spouses, and 20 great-grandchildren — are joining Virginia this week for their annual celebration of farm life.
Dawn said about 30 family members are staying overnight in three campers, but not Virginia.
“She needs to go home and sleep in her own bed,” said Dawn. Virginia has moved in with Dawn and son-in-law Donald Palmer.
But Dawn said Virginia will return to the fairgrounds every morning this week to join the party.
“The fair is the highlight of the summer for rural folks,” she said.
Virginia married “Bucky” in 1947, and in 1955 they bought his family’s 150-acre farm and all the cows, horses, pigs and sheep that came with it.
It wasn’t a big adjustment for Virginia, who grew up in the country.
Every year during Virginia’s 54-year run, at least one member of her family has taken part in 4-H competition.
Virginia’s six children and many of her grandchildren were raised on that farm, which now belongs to son Gary.
All of them helped raise and prepare animals to show at the fair. Six of the grandchildren have been named “Most Outstanding 4-H’r .” That’s especially important to the family since it was Bucky, who died in 1993, who launched the local 4-H program.
“It’s always a hectic time,” admits Virginia.