Surprises abound in 142nd year of Grange Fair

Organizers expect 200,000 visitors at the Centre County Grange Encampment and Fair this year.
Organizers expect 200,000 visitors at the Centre County Grange Encampment and Fair this year. Centre Daily Times, file

The 142nd Centre County Grange Encampment and Fair kicks off Aug. 17. But before the fun begins, a small city of people mobilize to make the magic happen.

From checking the radios and golf carts are operational to making sure the tents are in place, idle moments are rare for the 24 departments that comprise the fair’s staff. Planning, for instance, began the day after last year’s fair ended.

Piecing the moving parts together presents a Rubik’s Cube of challenges.

“Just the coordination,” said Darlene Confer, the fair’s general manager, “and making sure that everything that was planned goes according to what we had planned.”

To keep up, the fair hires 350 additional people. By October, Confer said, the committee looks at acquiring the fair’s Grandstand entertainment. By January, the main acts have been booked. At least, that’s the plan.

This year’s lineup is fresh, brimming with new acts to Grange Fair. Artists Jana Kramer, William Michael Morgan and more will be making their debut on the fair’s stage. Other shows include performances by Grammy-nominee Matt Maher, Bee Gees tribute band Staying Alive, Parmalee, Collin Raye and former The Voice contestant Raelynn. Centre Hall’s Adam Yarger returns home to perform at 8 p.m. on Aug. 20.

The fair will host its first Sunday afternoon concert when James Wesley takes the stage at 3 p.m. on Aug. 21.

“I think our entertainment lineup is really good this year,” Confer said. “We’ve had a lot of good feedback.”

Also new to the fair, a preseason high school football review and pep rally will take place at the basketball court on Aug. 21. ESPN 1450 will host a live broadcast of the event, which will include remarks from local coaches and players. The teams featured are Philipsburg-Osceola, State College, Bellefonte, Bald Eagle Area, Penns Valley and Saint Joseph’s Catholic Academy.

At noon that day, visitors ages 12 to 18 can sharpen their sleuthing skills in a “Amazing Race”-style competition. Confer said she is looking forward to the scavenger hunt, which was added this year.

Overall, she expects 200,000 people to stroll through the grounds during the fair.

“If you take a look at our master schedule, you’ll see that every day is just jam-packed,” Confer said.

During the first weekend, the fair will host its inaugural celebrity chef-to-table series. The Red Horse Tavern’s Justin Leiter, Revival Kitchen’s Liz Hoffner and Elk Creek Cafe’s Erin Snyder are scheduled to flash their skills.

For the denizens of the tent city — about 1,000 tents and 1,500 RVs will call the grounds home — there’ll be plenty to do.

Even after the last day, Aug. 27, there’s barely enough time for a collective sigh of relief. Once the fair ends, prep work begins for the next event: A Pennsylvania Quarter Horse Association show rolls through starting Sept. 3.

Then, of course, planning for next year’s fair begins, too.

“But it all falls in place, everybody fits in and we’re just looking forward to a great fair,” Confer said.

Roger Van Scyoc: 814-231-4698, @rogervanscy