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Popular Grange Fair Kicking Off 138th Year

by on August 23, 2012 9:25 AM

CENTRE HALL — The “nation’s most unique county fair” is gearing up for another year.

The Centre County Grange Encampment and Fair, or “Grange Fair,” will take place from Thursday through Aug. 30 at Grange Park.

A “city within a town,” the 138th Grange Fair will feature a variety of concerts, rides, food, games and competitions, according to its website.

Allen Bartlebaugh, of Bartlebaugh Amusements Inc., said his family business is “probably the oldest” vendor at the fair. Bartlebaugh Amusements has been attending the Grange Fair since the 1930s, Bartlebaugh said, and provides about 20 games and food stands and about 15 to 20 rides.

Bartlebaugh, of Madisonburg, said this year about 10 of his family members are planning to attend, and will stay for the entirety of the fair.

What he’s most looking forward to this year, he said, is “McDonald’s Day,” in which attendees will get a variety of discounts and deals through a partnership with the food chain. According to the Grange Fair website, “McDonald’s Day at Bartlebaugh’s” will be held from 1 p.m. to closing on Thursday. A $7 wristband will include a coupon from McDonald’s.

Bartlebaugh said such a large event as the Grange Fair provides a host of benefits, especially to local stores, hotels and other businesses that receive a boost in business during the fair. The fair itself, he said, provides entertainment throughout the day for families. Children can see a variety of animals, such as horses, pigs and cows, and can learn about things they wouldn’t be able to anywhere else.

Bartlebaugh said he wants to inform those who will be attending the fair for the first time this year that not everything can be seen and done in just one day.

“Plan to spend the whole day and come back again,” he said. “It’s the place to be next week.”

Ben Haagen, new Grange Fair president, said while he and the rest of the fair committee are “saddened” by what has been going on at Penn State, including the Jerry Sandusky trial and the NCAA’s sanctions against the university, he doesn’t believe it will affect fair turnout this year.

“I also think our fair-goers are loyal just like the Penn State fan base … and will continue to support our community as well as fair activities,” he said.

Haagen, who took over the role of president after the passing of past president Joe Hartle, said he has been coming to the fair since he was five months old.

“I’ve been a faithful fair attendee,” he said. “I first camped with my grandparents, Ben and Nancy Confer. In later childhood … I joined 4-H to show dairy cattle. Joe Hartle was one of my 4-H dairy club leaders.”

Haagen, who served as Hartle’s first vice president for three terms, said moving into the president’s position is “new territory for me.”

“I’m just thankful to have a great fair committee,” he said. “I’m also thankful for Joe being able to mentor me over the past few years.”

Haagen said what he’d like to accomplish this year as president is to follow in Joe’s footsteps, who held the position of fair committee president for 25 years.

“He was a great leader and a strong promoter of agriculture,” Haagen said.

Haagen said the biggest rewards he anticipates, as fair committee president, is seeing the smiles on the faces of the attendees.

“Grange Fair is truly a family tradition with a hometown atmosphere,” he said.

Haagen said the committee believes every year at the fair is “new and exciting.”

“Our entertainment is always top notch,” he said. “We continue to make improvements to better serve our RV campers, tenters and daily attendees. Once you check us out, we’re almost certain you will come back.”

Some featured musicians include Kip Moore and David Nail, Haagen said, who are “drawing a lot of attention.”

“But,” he said, “for the Gospel lovers, Sandi Patty will also be a big draw.”

What makes the Grange Fair so unique, Haagen said, is he believes it is the last tenting encampment fair in the nation.

“That’s what truly amazes first-time attendees,” he said.

He said the fair not only provides a showplace for agriculture and agricultural products, it also helps educate the community about the value of farmers in feeding the state and nation.

“Agriculture is the No. 1 industry in Pennsylvania,” Haagen said. “If we ever become dependent upon other nations for our daily food supply … I would be very concerned.”

Tourism, he said, is the state’s No. 2 industry.

“We think our Grange Fair is a great combination of the (two top) industries in our state,” Haagen said.

Any advice for first-time fair-goers?

“Get on one of our trams and view the grandeur of the fair’s 271 acres,” Haagen said. “There is something for everyone at Grange Fair … enjoy the day and make some new friends. It has become a great family tradition.

According to its website, over the years the Grange Fair has grown to include 950 tents, 1,300 RVs, hundreds of concessions and more than 7,000 exhibit items, amusement rides, livestock and other events and activities.

Musical concerts are included in the price of admission. Pets, with the exception of Seeing Eye dogs, are not permitted in the Grange Fairgrounds or camping area during the Grange Fair.

For more information, including a schedule of events and a list of concessions, visit www.grangefair.net.



Staff Writer at The Centre County Gazette
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