Four people surrounded The Badger, a tall, lanky firewood processor sold by Hud-Son Forest Equipment, as it idled. Spectators by the dozens swarmed the machine within a minute of it being turned on.
“They come in quick when they hear the noise, and most of them stay until we turn it off,” said Bill Mankey, an independent dealer for Hud-Son. “We find out who is serious when we turn it off and a few people will stick around and ask questions, but most people just want to see what’s making all the noise.”
Hud-Son was one of about 480 exhibitors at Ag Progress Days, the state’s largest outdoor agricultural exposition, according to program assistant Julie Ivicic. She said that 40,000 to 45,000 people would attend the three-day event.
Ken Lohr, a retired farmer, said he attends almost every year to learn about new equipment and watched The Badger, but he was more interested in Hud-Son’s sawmills. He said he has a 15-year-old sawmill that he used to help build a home and barn for his daughter and son-in-law.
“I just go around to see all of the equipment and see how I can improve my own things,” Lohr, 74, of Lincoln, said. “Everything has a flaw.”
Paul Manns, 44, of Ruffs Dale, and Mark Manns, 48, of Berryville, Va., met at Ag Progress Days to see new equipment, but they followed the lead of their nephew, Logan Eichenlaub, to see the Shaver’s Creek Slithering Snake Show.
Logan, 8, and Noah Manns, 13, both of Berryville, examined the shed skin of a black rat snake.
Logan, wide-eyed, looked at the skin in his hands until Kelly Walters, an intern with the snake coiled around her arm, asked if her arm was like a tree branch.
“No,” Logan said.
“Well, you’re right, actually, because we know my arm isn’t really a branch, but the snake might think it is,” Walters said.
Children also learned about plant pathology, environment microbiology and dairy products at the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau and 4-H Youth buildings. Angie Shaw, of Blue Mountain Farm in Newburg, showed children how she makes handmade mittens, scarfs and sweaters using the shedding fur from a rabbit.
Luke and Nate Hackenberger had trouble picking their favorite part of Ag Progress Days, but they settled on getting to sit on tractors.
“We get to watch different things and get free things, too.” said Luke, 8, of Middleburg.
“I like milkshakes and seeing the animals,” said Nate, 10.
While children flocked toward animal shows, farmers converged on equipment exhibits and the Joseph D. Harrington Crops, Soils and Conservation building.
Doug Beegle, a Penn State professor of agronomy, said he sees a lot of the same farmers every year at the university’s Field Crop and Forage Team booth in the Harrington building.
“I’ve came here for 35 years, and about half of the people I see are the same farmers, and we catch up,” Beegle said. “But there is a broad variety of people that want to talk to us. What prompts a lot of people to come to us are weed questions, and we have two weed specialists.
Bob Hemphill, of Butler County, who grew corn and soybeans before his retirement, said he attends the event almost every year.
“I’ve been coming here off and on for about 30 years, since about the mid-’80s,” Hemphill, 67, said. “I’m retired, but I enjoy coming here and seeing all of the expensive machinery and learning about the new advances. I like to learn what’s new.”