Planning for the Grange Fair is an inexact science for exhibitors.
Plant crops too soon, and they’ll go bad before the fair. Add too many handicrafts to your to-do list, and you won’t finish them all in time.
Kaitlin Rogers, 18, knows the feeling. She has missed two days of the fair in 18 years and has entered exhibits since she was 4 years old.
“It happens all the time,” Rogers, of Walker Township, said. “You don’t know what will grow or die. We have an 8-acre garden, and we’ll enter a lot, but right now we don’t know. You always overbook yourself and never get it all quite done.”
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Rogers has retired from entering noodle paintings, as she did as a child, and has graduated to entering everything from latch-hooked rugs and soap to fruits and vegetables.
“I look through the handbook every year, and I try to decide what I’m going to do,” Rogers said. “It’s a cram session from June to August.”
The price for some entries is $2 this year, up $1 from previous years, but exhibitors said it won’t sway them from entering as much as they usually do.
Sandy Podgurski will enter her annual plethora of exhibits despite the price change.
“I always grow things I can’t take,” Podgurski said. In early August she’ll decide what to enter, as usual, because she won’t know whether she’ll have everthing she needs. “So, if you don’t enter everything,” she said, “you can end up being up a creek without a paddle.”
Podgurski, who has attended the fair for more than 50 years, and her daughter Emily Wolfe have contributed to their own “Grange Fair fund” to pay to be exhibitors each year.
“We’ve been exhibiting in some way or another for so long,” Podgurski said. “When we first entered it was farm things like hay, wheat and corn, and we branched out into baking bread, flowers, vegetables, canned goods and needlecraft.”
Podgurski said they think they can win enough prizes to break even.
“We’ve won prizes every year,” Podgurski said. “There are so many chances to enter different things and win prizes. We’ve won for our flowers, baked things, canned products, vegetables and our jelly and jams.”
Some first-place prizes could net exhibitors large rewards.
One of the most heavily contested competitions is the Blue Ribbon Apple Pie contest. The first-place winner will get a spot in the 2015 Pennsylvania Farm Show and a chance to win $500. Judges will critique each pie for flavor, crust, creativity, appearance and filling, of which 60 percent must include apples.
Although winning prizes is part of the fun, the lure that keeps exhibitors coming back is seeing familiar faces each year.
“When you’re there, everyone smiles, and everyone wants to know what you’re up to and what’s happened in the last year,” said Pam Rogers, Kaitlin’s mother. “It’s the only yearly contact a lot of us have with each other, so everyone catches up on a year’s worth of news. I think it’s all friendly competition.”