‘Big family reunion’: Grange Fair to bring Centre Region together

More than 200,000 people will flock to Centre Hall for the 144th annual Centre County Grange Encampment and Fair.
More than 200,000 people will flock to Centre Hall for the 144th annual Centre County Grange Encampment and Fair. Centre Daily Times, file

In mid-August, more than 200,000 people will flock to Centre Hall for the 144th annual Centre County Grange Encampment and Fair.

A thousand tents, 1,500 RVs, more than 7,000 exhibit items and hundreds of concession stands will also fill Grange Park.

The massive event lasts nine days and is “the only remaining tenting fair in the nation,” according to the fair’s website.

“Grange Fair is a family oriented, fun affordable entertainment option to end your summer before getting in to going back to school, college, fall schedules, football — to that change that usually happens in August,” Grange Fair General Manager Darlene Confer said. “It’s a continuation of agriculture in our community, that base of agriculture is part of our mission, and we stay true to that mission.”

Latricia Hough, the committee chairwoman of agriculture education and youth advisory, makes it her mission to continue educating people of all ages on agriculture.

This year, Hough organized a “meet the animals” event where 4-H and FFA members will demonstrate how they raise and take care of their animals.

Goats, sheep, pigs, cows, bunnies and seeing eye puppies will be featured at the event.

Each day has a wide lineup of activities and entertainment fun for the family. With the Bartlebaugh and Garbrick rides, attendees can stay entertained all day.

Livestock shows will also last throughout the entire week, from open dairy shows, poultry shows, beef shows, hog shows and sheep shows.

In addition to the shows, there will also be tractor pulling events, the Open & AQHA Horse show at the equine facility and a “Barnyard Olympics.”

According to Hough, the Barnyard Olympics is a competition where adults and children can compete in a series of barnyard related activities. Last year, some of the activities included cracking eggs over heads, tossing greased watermelons and throwing hay bales.

Hough said she likes to change the activities up every year and wanted to keep this year’s tasks a secret so contenders “don’t know what’s coming at them.”

At the end of every night, there will be grandstand performances, where headlining entertainment will close out the day of activities.

Improvements will also be made at the fair.

Confer said the fair has improved accessibility, creating more spaces for handicapped parking. Parking lot lighting will also be switched to LED lights, for safety and economical reasons, Confer said.

With hundreds of activities to partake in, Confer advises attendees to take a ride on the fair’s tram. With the exception of the first day, the tram service will run from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. everyday.

“The trams go around the perimeter of the property and it shows you the expanse of our property and enables them to see where things are located and can get off stops,” Confer said. “It just allows people to see what all exists and how large the fairgrounds is.”

There are several options, Confer said, for those on a budget.

While anyone younger than 12 can get in for free, there are other solutions that are fun for all ages.

“There’s free entertainment all day, every day, from early morning till late night when Grandstand comes on,” Confer said. “We have our own librarian who runs programming all day every day, the playground is open, so there are a lot of options for entertainment that are educational and fun.”

Confer, who has been involved with the fair for more than 30 years, believes the fair’s continuity is what keeps people — including herself — coming back.

“We still come to the terminology that it’s a ‘big family reunion,’ ” Confer said. “There’s not a lot of hustle and bustle. It’s just a way to reconnect with people and things you’ve done as you were growing up.”