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Annual Family Tradition of the Grange Fair Continues for 140th Year

by on August 19, 2014 12:44 PM

Family.

Barry Frank can sum up the meaning of the Grange Fair in Centre Hall in that one simple word.

Frank, of Medina, Ohio and formerly of Bellefonte, has been camping with his family in a tent at the fair for 70 years. And this year is no different.

His great grandparents started the tradition. They passed the tent down to him. One day, he will pass it down to his daughter. His great grandfather helped plant the trees that surround the tent village at the fair grounds.

Frank and his buddy Warren Kibe have seen many changes at the fair over the last several decades. They remember when there were wooden outhouses in the trees for campers. They remember when airplanes landed at the fairgrounds with the slogan, "See the fair by air."

Some things haven't changed, like the Octopus amusement ride.

"I used to ride that year after year after year. Now, I just look at it and turn green," says Frank.

Beyond the family tradition of camping and reuniting with old friends, Kibe enjoys the fair's entertainment, which is included with the event's admission. Over the years, he and his wife have seen a slew of performances, like Patty Loveless, Alabama and Martina McBride.

"Some of the entertainment here is just tremendous," Kibe says.

Darlene Confer, general manager of the fair, expects a record turnout this year, weather permitting.

"If we have good weather, I anticipate this will be the best attendance we've ever had," she says.

She says that's partly due to popular entertainment acts slated to take the stage, including Chubby Checker & the Wildcats and the Swon Brothers, who were contestants on season four of NBC's The Voice.

A larger crowd is also expected due to expanded marketing initiatives on the web, which was intended to offset the potential loss of business when local school districts return to class. The fair starts Wednesday and ends Aug. 28. The State College Area School District heads back to class Aug. 26.

Confer says family tradition is the major reason the fair has consistently been a popular event for the last 140 years with 2,500 families camping on-site for the duration of the fair.

"A lot of it has to do with our loyal families living here," she says. "It is such a tradition and it is a chance for people to see their friends once a year. This is the most unique fair in the United States.

For the full fair schedule, click HERE.

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Jennifer Miller is a reporter for StateCollege.com. She has worked in journalism since 2005. She's covered news at the local, state and national level with an emphasis on crime and local government.
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