For tent neighbors, Grange Fair full of memories

On the second block of south row No. 2 at the Grange Fair, a tree stands between the tents of the families of Stephanie Stapleton and Valerie Coakley.

The two families, who’ve been neighbors at the fair for more than 50 years, had the tree planted in 2001 to honor family members who were special parts of their Grange Fair experiences: Coakley’s grandfather Miles Lucas and Stapleton’s dad, Steve Smith.

Coakley’s and Stapleton’s families were together again on Wednesday, setting up and starting to take in the annual Centre County Grange Encampment and Fair, which starts Thursday.

Stapleton arrived first on Wednesday, and while she was stringing up some blue lights onto the canopy over the tent porch, her uncle Wayne Smith, of Lock Haven, stopped by. He’d finished setting up his RV for the fair.

Stapleton had one more load of belongings to retrieve from her home in Aaronsburg and then she’d be done.

She’d already brought the heavy stuff — including the futon, cot, mini-fridge and microwave — and she just needed clothes, the coffee pot and some odds and ends, she said.

On Stapleton’s porch were two red-colored tree stumps that will be foot rests.

But their symbolism is more important than their utility.

Years and years ago, when there was a tree on the corner of their tent pad, Stapleton’s dad used to rest his feet on its trunk.

The tree was taken down long ago and her dad died in 2000 from cancer, and the families had the grounds crew plant the new tree the next year.

But the stumps from the old tree make it back each year.

“When the stumps are out, we’re in business,” said Coakley, of Beech Creek. “Grange Fair is open.”