Ritchie County Residents Celebrate 'Chain-Cutting' of Pennsboro - WTRF 7 News Sports Weather - Wheeling Steubenville

Ritchie County Residents Celebrate 'Chain-Cutting' of Pennsboro Speedway

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For Ritchie County residents, the legal fight to keep their beloved fairgrounds and the Pennsboro Speedway was long and hard fought, but Saturday marked the start of a new era, with an official "chain-cutting" ceremony. 

"We'll go back to 1887, that's when it all began here. The original contract for this racetrack was written up for trials of speed, the trials of speed at that point in time was horse racing. Then, they started having motorized racing in the 1940s, 50s, 60s. By the early 1980s, this place was known throughout the United States," said Ashley Ness of the Ritchie County Agricultural and Fair Association Board of Directors.

But for Ness, those memories surrounding the "Hillbilly Racetrack" hadn't been the greatest in the last four years.

"Three-and-a-half years, just about four years now, battle....they were going to sell the fairgrounds, and the community stepped up," said Ness.

The sign says it all: the Pennsboro Speedway is legendary, not only here in Ritchie County, but the entire North Central West Virginia. But instead of racehorses and cars, it was tractors and bulldozers that came rolling through the gates to start the rejuvenation process.

"Today is all about getting the grass mowed, the trees cut, the old guardrails down, whatever we need to do to clean the place up so people can come back in and lease the place and have events here," said Ness.

"[We needed to] start updating it, get the property cleaned up, start building things, and see things start getting built," said Ronnie Dodd, who was elected to the Ritchie County Agricultural and Fair Association Board of Directors last January.

"The majority of the people in this county didn't feel that this association was being run in their interest," said Dodd.

As for the future of the racetrack, Dodd said the board was designed as a voice of the people, and he intends to give them what they want.

"It's the people of Ritchie County's place. It's their facility, and hopefully after today, they'll realize it's back in their hands, and we're gonna open it up to see what they want to do here," said Dodd.