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WV state fair hosts its first-ever strongman competition

By Candace Nelson

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - At today's first-ever strongman competition at the State Fair of West Virginia, competitors are expected to drag a truck for nearly 100 feet, lift hundreds of pounds of weight above their heads and place giant boulders from the ground up on podiums.

The first West Virginia's Strongest Mountaineer competition will test competitors' strength in a number of intense physical strength activities that will award victors in first through third places.

"We wanted to include this for a number of reasons - like the growth of health and fitness across the area," said Marlene Pierson-Jolliffe, the manager of the fair.

"Folks are clued into the event more than they were years ago from an athletic sporting perspective. It gives them something different."

Dan Caraway, who is helping organize the event, said more than 20 people are already registered.

He said the competition will include the "Truck Pull," "Deadlift," "Log Clean and Press," "Farmer's Handles" and "Atlas Stones."

The Truck Pull will feature contestants pulling trucks with an attached rope or harness across a 95-foot course.

The Deadlift is a brute force event, with men and women pulling the heaviest weight possible straight from the floor until the knees are locked in a standing position.

Log Clean and Press involves quickly lifting a log with handles up from the hips, knees and ankles and then pressing the log.

The Farmer's Handles event tests contestants' grip on a set of handles, which works the lower body and lower back, as competitors race along a course.

Atlas Stones typically consist of five stones of increasing weight that contestants must place from the group atop a podium.

"The Truck Pull is a fan favorite," said Caraway, 31, of Lewisburg. "The rest is similar to what you'd see at nationals. I tried to choose events that are more on the conservative side since it's the first time at the state fair, and I don't want anybody to get hurt. These ones should be crowd-pleasing."

Caraway said there were a handful of strongman events this year, mostly coordinated by Paul Mouser, the West Virginia chairman for North American Strongman, who is also helping promote this event.

Phil Pfister, who was the World's Strongest Man in 2006 and is a resident of West Virginia, will also attend the event.

Caraway said those who have some sort of power-lifting experience or are athletic should try the competition (PDF).

"Adults don't really have anything to compete in anymore; here's something you can try and compete in," he said.

Those contestants who win will receive plaques and trophies in addition to an invite to nationals.

"I want to get more people from West Virginia represented in national competitions. There are a few this year, and I hope the sport grows in West Virginia. There are lots of strong people through Huntington and Charleston that I'm hoping to get in the show in the future."

Pierson-Jolliffe said in past years, the fair has seen averages of 175,000 to 185,000 attendees.

The fair will also offer events in the grandstand, like concerts, motocross racing and a bull-riding event. Events are geared toward all age groups, including exhibits, livestock displays and more, Pierson-Jolliffe said.

Caraway said, "For the first event, the strongman turnout is pretty good, but I hope it continues to grow in the future."

The competition will be at the grandstand at 10 a.m.

For more information on the event, visit

Contact writer Candace Nelson at or 304-348-5148. Follow her at


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