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‘Mr. Fair’ remembered as ‘overall great person’

bud with womanBy CALVIN PYNN

calvin@www.southwesttimes.com

 

“He was Mr. Fair.”

That’s how Janie King, along with many others in Pulaski County, remembers Thomas “Bud” Walsh. The former general manager for the New River Valley Fairgrounds who was instrumental in organizing the fair in Dublin each year, died Saturday at the age of 90.

According to King, who works as the fairgrounds office manager and treasurer, the New River Valley Fair was Walsh’s passion, as he was in charge of organizing the annual week-long event. He served as the fairgrounds president and general manager for 26 years before retiring in 2012.

During that time, Walsh made a lasting impression on both fairgoers and workers alike.

“He was a good man to work for,” King said, reflecting on her time organizing the fair alongside Walsh since she started in 1993. “He was knowledgeable, personable, just an overall great person.”

Walsh was a native of Pulaski County, and used to attend the fair during his childhood.

Not long before his involvement with the fair, Walsh worked as an estimator and co-partner for the contracting company Boone and Walsh Construction, from which he retired shortly after his partner had done the same. He decided to volunteer with the fair, but then succeeded the fairgrounds’ then-president and general manager, who was already preparing to retire.

“I volunteered, I think, to take up tickets or something, and before I knew it, I was back into something,” Walsh said in a 2007 interview with The Southwest Times.

From that point until his retirement, the fair was an everyday project for Walsh. While the fair is held in either late July or early August, Walsh would begin preparing for next year’s fair the year before, usually starting in November. Walsh attended the annual Virginia State Fair Convention in Williamsburg during the first week of January, where he would meet with vendors and booking agents, as well as look for talent for the fair as comedians, singers and other performers would showcase their talents at the convention.

As scheduling the entertainment at the fair was one of Walsh’s responsibilities, he had the chance to meet a number of famous performers, including comedian Jerry Clower, who Walsh booked at the fair three times.

Before running his ventures with the fairground and his contracting business, Walsh served in the U.S. Navy as an Aviation Metalsmith Second Class on the USS Midway. He graduated from Virginia Polytechnical Institute (Virginia Tech) in 1950.

Walsh was a lifelong fan of the Virginia Tech Hokies, according to his obituary. He also enjoyed fox hunting with the Rockbridge County Fox Club, and enjoyed traveling with his wife, including a motorcycle trip the midwestern United States during the 1970s.

Throughout the many years he was involved with the fair, Walsh’s work did not go unrecognized. He was named “Fair Person of the Year” by the Virginia Fair Association in 1998, and received the Business Executive of the Year Award by the Pulaski Chamber of Commerce in 2008.

His legacy is immortalized at the fairgrounds, as the grandstand area – Bud Walsh Arena – is named in his honor.

The fairgrounds have been host to other events as well, such as the Lions Club’s annual flea market, which member Warren Morris said Walsh supported heavily. At one point, Walsh was himself a member of the Lions Club.

“Bud Walsh was instrumental in developing the fairgrounds that allowed the Dublin Lions Club to establish the Pulaski County Flea Market,” Morris said.

Pulaski County Administrator Pete Huber described Walsh as “one of those unique individuals who truly believed in giving to others.”

“He faithfully dedicated his time, energy and talents to the operation and improvement of the New River Valley Fairgrounds,” Huber said. “Bud’s life is an example of what can be accomplished when we, as individuals, commit to our community.”

Throughout his constant involvement with the New River Valley Fair, King said Walsh wore many hats in running and organizing the event, and kept the whole process exciting as he worked to incorporate a variety of ideas every year.

“There were just so many things he did,” King said. “When you work for someone for so long, every day is an adventure.”

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