At last year’s Centre County Grange Encampment and Fair, organizers brought in a cellular repeater to give a boost to the cellphone network that would be taxed by thousands of electronics devices competing for its bandwidth.
But the repeater didn’t last long.
As a testament to the volume of people with gadgets sending text messages, making phone calls or accessing the Internet, the repeater couldn’t handle the load. It blew out after just 15 minutes.
For this year’s Grange Fair, the 139th annual event, organizers are going a different route to enhance the cellphone network coverage and ensure a way that teenagers can text, folks can watch movies on their iPads or make mobile calls.
They’ll have a cell on wheels, aka a COW, which is a mobile tower that adds bandwidth to the network.
“There was a cow at the first Granger’s picnic, and there will be a COW at the 139th,” said LeDon Young, a fair committee member, the longtime secretary and Centre Hall resident.
This year’s fair starts Aug. 22 and will run through Aug. 29, and, as usual, it will feature the livestock that everyone has spent time raising.
There will be the thousands and thousands of exhibits entered by locals vying for the title of best squash or shoofly pie in the county. The food vendors return, drawing long lines for gyros, ice cream sundaes, monkey bread and the other treats folks wait for all year.
And thousands of people get out their Grange Fair furniture, move into their canvas tents or RVs and create, for a week, the third-largest community in Centre County complete with a library, a playground, convenience stores, a lockup and a hair salon.
There are a few changes to the fair this year, manager Darlene Confer said.
One-day admission and one-day parking rates are $6 each, up a dollar from last year.
Parking for the week is $16, and general admission for the week is $15.
The number of spaces for tents has increased.
The fair is turning a parking area into pads for 17 tents.
Confer said she has to check her list for the people who will be offered the newly available sites. Some of those folks have been roamers in the past who’ve taken the spot of someone who had to cancel his or her tent reservation for one reason or another.
The number of tents, which cost $900 apiece to use for the week of the fair, is now 1,000, and it’ll probably be like that for a while.
“We like that 1,000 tent number,” Confer said.
Young said she tends to be the welcome wagon for people visiting the Grange Fair for the first time.
As regular fairgoers know, for years she was the voice of the fair over the intercom system. Young is a walking encyclopedia when it comes to fair history, people and trivia.
First-timers, curious about learning how the fair got started, are quickly directed to her.
“They are just in amazement,” said Young, who also has a law practice in State College.
“My favorite thing to do is walk them back through the tent rows,” she said.
“This is Grange Fair furniture. It comes out once a year.”