There is an art to perfectly packing the family car before heading out on vacation or to fitting every last piece of furniture snugly in the moving truck when changing homes.
And George Witherite is a master.
Witherite is responsible for fitting 1,500 recreational vehicles, campers and trailers, often with just inches between them, in the parking lots around the Centre County Grange Fair and Encampment fairgrounds.
“They fit in tight,” said Witherite, the fair’s trailer camp secretary.
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Each camper occupies a spot that’s about 20 feet wide. As vehicles are made with more bells and whistles — an awning here and slide-out extension there — things can get pretty tight.
“Today’s campers can take up 19 feet,” Witherite said. ‘That gives you inches between you and your neighbor. And that’s if you park perfect.”
Then it’s a good thing Witherite, who has been at for nearly 40 years, is there to oversee what some would consider a chaotic few days. It’s also good that neighbors often become a sort of family.
“It’s a reunion,” Witherite said.
Like the more storied tent encampment, RV campers find themselves in the same spots year after year. And like the tents, many spots are handed down through the generations — from grandparents to children to grandchildren.
Witherite said it’s a family affair.
“If grandma and grandpa have a camper, the grandkids are with them,” he said. “These people, 99 percent of them are coming to have a good time and see friends and neighbors.”
And there’s a waiting list. Witherite has collected about 400 names of those eager for spots.
Each year, 1,375 campers motor into the fairgrounds.
Add in vendor’s vehicles and the total climbs to roughly 1,500.
And over four days, all those vehicles rumble their way through Penns Valley or cross Centre Hall Mountain, funneling into the fairgrounds. That might sound like a logistical nightmare, but Witherite has his ways.
Witherite contacts those campers and assigns them each a day to move in.
“They know the drill,” he said.
Then Witherite and his crew of 35 volunteers pack them all in over that four-day span, which this year starts Saturday, Aug. 17.
“I have workers who have been here for years,” he said. “They naturally don’t do it for pay, because they don’t get that much.
“They do it because they love it.”