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Grange Fair preview: Fair showcases agricultural talent

Gail Horner, of Port Matilda, looks at a vegetable display at the Centre County Grange Fair in 2014.
Gail Horner, of Port Matilda, looks at a vegetable display at the Centre County Grange Fair in 2014. CDT file photo

Trevor Poorman knows a thing or two about chickens.

For instance, if your chicken has dirty feet — and let’s be honest, it probably does — you can grab a toothbrush and some baby oil to restore their natural luster.

Is your poultry plagued by mites? Try a little dusting powder.

These are the things you need to know if you want to compete in exhibitions at the Grange Fair.

What began 141 years ago as a celebration of Pennsylvania agriculture has expanded over time into a smorgasbord of fried food, live music and tent decorating.

The exhibits are a reminder that despite all the bells and whistles, the fair remains first and foremost a talent show.

“It’s really amazing how much talent there is in Centre County and people don’t know it,” Tawna Smith said.

Smith oversees several exhibits, including baked goods, fresh vegetables and flowers.

She said most of the work that goes into preparing each exhibit happens at the very beginning, when items are still being moved into the various buildings on the fairgrounds.

Smith estimates that last year included almost 500 cakes, cookies, pies and breads — and 56 bottles of amateur wine.

“We have a lot of variety,” Smith said.

Most of the categories can be ranked from first through fifth place. Once an item has been sampled and judged, the rest is auctioned off.

For Linda Maurer, of Julian, the fair is an opportunity to show off the quilts she typically only makes for family.

“It’s just fun seeing how they compare to the other people’s quilts,” Maurer said.

Apparently they hold up pretty well. In years past, Maurer’s quilts have received recognition as Best in Show as well as few first- and second-place nods.

“I win something every year or I wouldn’t be taking them,” Maurer said.

At only 10 years old, Trevor Poorman still has plenty of time to worry about winning awards.

Life on a farm prepared Trevor for working with chickens, ducks and rabbits, but it was his older brother who served as his inspiration for joining 4-H and exhibiting at the Grange Fair.

“My brother first joined and I saw how much fun he had doing it so it made me want to do it,” Trevor said.

Once they enter the exhibition, Trevor’s animals are divided into classes based on size and weight. Judges provide feedback on how each contestant can improve their chances the following year.

The competition may be fleeting, but Trevor cares for his animals year-round, taking responsibility for keeping them clean and fed.

Grange fairgrounds General Manager Darlene Confer said preserving Pennsylvania’s agricultural tradition has always been a crucial component of the fair.

“We are an agricultural fair and we try very hard to remain true to that commitment,” Confer said.

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