County fair filling up with exhibits

By POLLY SMITH
County Fair Writer

    With less than a month to the start of the Huntingdon County Fair, the momentum among the volunteers is starting to build. The seven-day agricultural exposition opens Sunday, Aug. 9, and runs through Saturday, Aug. 15.

“Harvest the Fun” is the statewide theme for the 109 county and community fairs and festivals in 62 counties. This year’s fair is a special one for the agricultural association which sponsors it. It marks the 125th time the fair has been held in the county since 1831. The fair was not an annual event in its early years, having been interrupted by wars and organizational issues.

     Local residents have enjoyed the fair at the 69-acre site along Fairgrounds Road in Smithfield Township, about two miles south of Huntingdon Borough, since 1922. There were two years during World War II it was not held due to gasoline and other rationing. Before the former Benson tract was purchased by the Huntingdon County Agricultural Association in 1923, the fair was held inside and outside Huntingdon Borough and near Alexandria.

To celebrate this special year, a program is set for 6 p.m. Monday, Aug. 10, at the Midway Stage. Former Pennsylvania Secretary of Agriculture Sam Hayes Jr. will be the master of ceremonies. Current Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding has accepted an invitation to attend, as well as local and state government officials. The approximately one-hour program will conclude with “anniversary” music by local musician Chris Woodward and the serving of cupcakes to the audience. Northwest Savings Bank is sponsoring the event and Huntingdon Copy Rite and Banner Zone and Giant Food Stores are sponsoring the cupcakes.

    The public can also enjoy photo exhibits in Neary Hall during fair week and an old-fashioned Saturday night square dance – just like the former days when the dances officially ended the week.

    “Numbers” were recently reported to the fair directors who have been meeting monthly since February to organize this year’s fair. There are five fair queen contestants who have agreed to host a fundraising high heel decorating contest to support the Wounded Warrior Project, according to the current queen, Sarah Jefferis of the Alexandria area.

   The annual quilt project, led by director Linda Grove, is titled “Quilter’s Choice.” The money raised from the quilt raffle will benefit Huntingdon County PRIDE. Grove said the 2015 quilt theme is “spinning stars.”

    All vendor spaces, inside and out, are filled with 22 on the waiting list and 225 campers have registered to stay at the grounds during fair week.

    To date, there are 48 hay and grains exhibits, 303 vegetables, 85 fruits and nuts, 35 home and dairy products, about 200 floral exhibits, 130 needlecraft, seven wine entries, two apiary and maple products, 143 fine arts and crafts, 14 group exhibits, nine living landscapes and10 wheelbarrow and 14 scarecrow entries.

    The new Huntingdon County Cattle Battle, to be held at noon Saturday, Aug. 15, is anticipating 50 entries in this open beef competition, according to John Nichols, organizer.

    The Central Pennsylvania Championship Holstein Show begins at 6 p.m. Saturday. This is a longstanding feature of the fair’s last day.

    Eysenbach, livestock superintendent, reports registrations indicate there are 176 market hogs, 85 market lambs and 58 breeding sheep, 100 dairy beef, 92 market goats and 50 breeding goats, 42 pens of meat rabbits and 53 market steers and 78 breeding cattle to be brought by 4-H and FFA members to be exhibited for judging. Eysenbach was authorized to invite an owner of alpacas who wishes to bring a few of the animals for visitors to see.

    Joan Long reports she is expecting at least 160 horses, possibly more, for equine shows.

    Gate tickets are currently selling for $4 each at various locations throughout the county. Premium booklets are also available at these locations and at The Daily News office, 325 Penn St., Huntingdon. There is a schedule of activities included in the booklet which is also available online at www.huntingdoncountyfair.com

Visit two fairs

    About a dozen members of the Captain Jack FFA chapter are eligible to show livestock in two fairs in August – the Huntingdon County Fair and the Mifflin County Youth Fair, set for Aug. 2-8.

    This is a plus for these FFA members who are affiliated with the chapter at Mount Union Area High School. Last year, as well as some other years, the two fairs ran the same week so young exhibitors had to choose the arena for their livestock projects.

    “This is a great opportunity for the kids,” said Tammy Fisher, FFA chapter advisor, even though it makes for her and the exhibitors a long two weeks in August. The Mount Union Area School District comprises sections of both Huntingdon County and adjacent Mifflin County.

    “There are 10-12 kids who are eligible to exhibit livestock at both fairs,” Fisher said. “They will have a mix of species, mostly dairy and sheep.”

    Fisher has 60 members in the chapter in her second year as advisor. She has been associated with the MUAHS chapter for nine years as a para educator and was a 4-H leader in Mifflin County for 15 years. She is keeping in touch with the members who plan to enter exhibits at the two fairs, including spending time with them at a recent three-day FFA event at Penn State.

    Fisher is particularly proud of member Danielle Varner who was recently crowned Pennsylvania Ayrshire Queen. Varner also competed in a national contest set in Huntingdon County and won the national Ayrshire princess title. Varner is the daughter of Dean and Donna Varner of the Shirleysburg area. She showed the supreme cow, an Ayrshire, at the Huntingdon County Fair in 2012 and 2013, and reserve supreme cow at the 2014 HCF.

    “We have three from our chapter running for fair queen this year,” Fisher said. She believes the agriculture science curriculum and FFA program in the schools are an important part of education in Pennsylvania where agriculture is the number one industry next to tourism.

    “It is not only educational, it is hands on. They learn just how far the ag industry reaches. It is so much more than they realize,” Fisher said.

Things to Know

    Parking is free and gate admission for adults is $5, children 12 and under, free.

Visit the fair’s website at or Facebook and Twitter for an updated schedule or comments. There are amenities at the fairgrounds, such as ATMs, on-site medical personnel and a QR Code on display to be read electronically with the right personal tool to view each day’s entertainment schedule.

    Volunteers will answer questions on the phone weekdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. throughout this month and during fair week at the fair office by calling 643-4452. The email address is huntfair@verizon.net.

    For everyone’s safety, no dogs are permitted on the fairgrounds.

    This year’s daily sponsors are JLG Industries, Monday; The Daily News, Wednesday; and Michael F. Dilliard Auction Company, Friday.