It wasn’t a surprise to Agnes Homan that her family’s name was listed in the Centre County Grange Encampment and Fair tent-holder history book.
After all, her family has been attending the fair since 1890 and camping at it since 1891.
It was like Black Friday at the fair Tuesday — the first day it sold a compilation book of tent holders from 1887 to present.
A line of people waited at The Emporium to get their hands on the history book that named more than 6,500 registered individuals who tented on the grounds for the fair, including what year they began to camp.
LeDon Young, Grange Fair committee member, said compiling a list and turning it into a paperback book was an idea that started years ago, but the research only began in October.
“For very many years, we would get questions asking us, ‘can you tell me how long my family’s been tenting?’ ” she said. “We sat down last year and really hit the pavement with creating this book and doing it to honor the Grange Fair’s 140th anniversary.”
Committee members Donna Cogan and Diane Snyder were the masterminds behind the project.
Together, they researched the Centre Daily Times, the Centre Reporter and the Keystone Gazette, in additional to consulting local Grange families.
On Aug. 18, Howard Grove, a local print specialist, spent all night printing 400 copies of the book, of which at least 240 were sold by noon Tuesday, Young said.
Homan flipped to the page with last names that started with “H” and ran her finger down the page to find her relatives’ names.
“That’s my mother,” Homan said when she found the name Talitha Hoy, of Hublersburg, next to the date 1909. Her grandfather George Hoy’s name was also listed — first tenting in 1891.
The Grange Fair began in 1874 with Leonard Rhone who urged the community to have a “pic-nik,” Young said. He gathered farmers from across the valley to engage in a community gathering.
“Back in the day, they held camp meetings,” Young said. “It was part of early America where people would meet like that. It was like that with the Grange Fair where a tent city was unfolded.”
Since then, tents have been purchased and passed down through family generations.
“There is a lot of history here,” said Homan, of Potter Township. “My whole family was Grangers.”
The 90-year-old was 3 the first time she went to the Grange Fair.
“From what I remember when I first came, there were only 400 or 500 tents,” Homan said. “We truly used to know 90 percent of the people who came. The growth has been tremendous.”
The Grange Fair now holds 1,000 tents and 1,500 recreational vehicles with campers during the two-week event.
Young said the Fair Committee is doing its best to document campers, and eventually print another history book with updated names and years as the committee learns more.
“Tenting is all part of getting together with people,” said Homan’s nephew Carl Homan, 63, of Centre Hall. “There is a camaraderie with it.”
On Tuesday, Agnes Homan’s family ate handpicked corn from her Old Fort Farm and reminisced about the time there used to be no vendors at the fair. Her tent includes a kitchen area, sleeping area with two bunks, and community space with a futon and some folding chairs.
And with 87 years spent at the Grange Fair, it holds a special place in her heart.
“I was from a farm family and married into another farm family . We didn’t have time to go on vacations, so going to the fair was our vacation. It was what we had,” Homan said. “If you ask my favorite part, it’s just about seeing all my family. I see everyone who comes to visit. I see more people here than at my own house.”
To this day, she spends nearly every day of the Grange Fair at her tent on Hartle Street with at least five generations of family members — and that includes camping out herself.
“What kind of fair would this be if I couldn’t sleep here a few times,” she said with a laugh. “I have my great-granddaughters here today and someday this will all be passed down to my family and their names might be in that same book.”
Young expects the book to sell out, but when that happens she said the committee will go back to Grove to print more copies. The book sells for $10, some of which goes back into the cost of printing the book.