As Shelly Weaver’s friends sat in a Texas diner a couple of years ago, they overheard some people talking about a horse show in Centre Hall.
That is what the fair board was hoping for when it was able to get a grant to build the equine arena, which opened in 2011. The large indoor arena provides a backdrop that houses many shows throughout the year, outside the Centre County Grange Encampment and Fair.
Weaver, fair board equine chairwoman, said there are only about two weekends from April through November when it’s not being used.
“They’re battling for weekends,” she said about people trying to book the arena, “which is a good problem to have.”
During this year’s fair, the arena will be in high demand as well.
Events kick off on Aug. 22, with the draft horse show, which runs until Saturday. There will also be an American Quarter Horse Association open show all day Saturday and Sunday, a Monday gaming show for Centre County residents only and a Tuesday Centre County residents open show.
The move-out day will be Wednesday. Thursday, the last day of the fair, will be used for cleaning. But the events don’t stop there.
There will be another show Friday, Aug. 30 through Sunday, Sept. 1 to round out the busy time.
The indoor complex is ideal for that kind of volume because it allows shows to go on in all weather situations, she said.
During last weekend’s Pennsylvania Quarter Horse Association sponsored show, people came from all over the states, portions of Canada and one person came from Australia.
“If people travel and spend that kind of money, they want to be assured they will be able to show,” Weaver said.
Another huge plus is the 1,500 RV hookups that essentially guarantee a place for anyone who wants to spend the night in an RV.
Horses have been part of the Grange Fair experience for more than 100 years, fair committee member LeDon Young said.
People would all come to the fair on horses in the 1800s before the advent of cars, she said. As time went on and cars become more popular, interest in horses began to fade.
The animals made a big return to the fair in 1985 when a horse ring was constructed, and over time that little project has developed into the major complex that is there today.
“It has become, in a very short time, one of the premiere equine areas on the East Coast and we’re very, very, very proud of that,” she said.
And there could be plans for future expansion, Weaver said.
Another barn, bringing the number of permanent stalls up to about 300 would greatly reduce the need for temporary stalls at nearly all the year’s events.