The Centre County Grange Encampment and Fair is all about traditions, but this year one wont be around.
When the 138th fair opens Aug. 23, longtime fair President Joe Hartle no longer will walk the grounds, warmly greeting everyone he meets. Hartle, who spent 25 years as president and 61 years on the fair committee, died in March at 78.
But his presence and contributions will be remembered.
During the opening ceremonies at the Grandstand, fair officials and Centre County commissioners will proclaim a Joe Hartle Day.
The fair is also offering a Joe Hartle Memorial Award $100 to be given to an active member in one of Centre Countys 4-H dairy clubs or FFA chapters in honor of his lifetime work as a Benner Township dairy farmer and local 4-H Dairy Club leader.
Throughout previous fairs, Hartle could often be found down at the dairy barn, his unofficial headquarters.
Its odd his not being here, said Darlene Confer, the fairs general manager. The thing about Joe, he always had a smile and a handshake for everyone. He was really known for that. Hell be missed.
In other respects, the fair will bring back to its 271-acre grounds in Centre Hall much of what has made it a perennial local highlight and the last tenting fair in the nation.
Once again, residents will move furniture and other household items into 980 large canvas tents, creating a weeklong town complete with streets, a library, a playground and hair salon.
Tent spots, some of which stay with families for generations, are so prized that they rarely become available. Fair officials have stopped adding people to a wait list that has largely become pointless.
Fair residents also stay in a sea of 1,500 recreational vehicles.
But in addition to resident campers, the fair can draw nearly 200,000 visitors daily to an array of attractions 300 concession stands, 7,000 exhibit items, tractor pulls, amusement rides, livestock competitions, bingo, horseshoe pitching contests, a state-of-the-art equine center, concerts and other features of the sprawling fairgrounds.
The single admission fee remains $6 and season tickets are still $15. Children 11 and younger get in free.
All tickets offer entry into a bustling world.
Back this year, strolling the grounds, will be a Barney Fife impersonator, playing the deputy sheriff of Mayberry, and the Monkey Man with his simian pet.
The giant Sunset Ice Cream sundae will return, in all its goopy glory, as will, of course, the parade, the traditional fair finale on Aug. 30.
In the fair headquarters, the Grange Fair Library, run by librarian J.A. Babay, will offer more than books and magazines. She has a full schedule of activities planned, including chicken dances that start at the library and move to the adjacent Jubilee Grove, pajama story times, trips around the fair and Best Bedhead Awards.
In between opening day and the parade will be a cornucopia of events jazz, country and oldies concerts, magic shows, an animal dressing contest, dances, pedal tractor pulls, rodeos, horse shows, health screenings, and even Jazzercise, Zumba and other fitness classes.
Were so much more than rides and concession stands, Confer said.
Theres just so much to our fair.
New this year will be Internet cafes Wi-Fi spots around the fairgrounds in place of the overall wireless Internet service from the past.
The talent show, an annual youth showcase, has expanded to include sixth and seventh grades.
For the first time, shuttle service to the fair will be available. Boalsburg resident Charles Hunt, the owner of PA Hunt Connections LLC, will operate a small bus daily, picking up passengers in State College, Boalsburg, Pleasant Gap and Bellefonte, dropping them off at Gate 2 and providing rides back for $5.
Contact Hunt at 777-7383 or 880-1806, or the fair at 364-9212, for pickup times and locations.
Confer has another transportation idea for first-time visitors.
My first suggestion is to get on the trams and take a ride around the grounds, just to see how large it is, she said.
That way, she said, visitors can fully take in what hundreds of organizers work all year to prepare.
We just want to be an exceptional fair, Confer said. It takes time and effort.