Grange Fair opens as exhibitors roll in entries

Greg Cain walked into the Grange Building on Thursday morning lugging a giant orange pumpkin on his shoulder.

Cain lowered it down, plopped it on the floor, and a Grange Fair worker wrapped a tag around the gourd’s stalk, marking it as an entry in the largest pumpkin category among the horticulture exhibits at this year’s Centre County Grange Encampment and Fair.

The Grange Fair officially started Thursday, and in the morning, exhibitors were scurrying in with their entries in a wide variety of categories, such as vegetables, crafts, quilts, ceramics, children’s entries and more.

“If you can’t find something you’re into in this building, you’re in trouble,” quipped Tawna Smith, who’s the Grange Fair’s exhibits coordinator.

Cain’s niece, 6-year-old Lilly Nyman, is the one who is entering the gourd. The uncle was the lucky one who got to haul the beast in. It weighs 81 pounds.

“Yeah, it was getting heavy,” said Cain, of Howard.

Lilly Nyman said the pumpkin dwarfed the other ones in her patch.

“It took out the good stuff from the other pumpkins,” said Lilly, the daughter of Steve and Heidi Nyman, of Howard.

Mona Bowmaster, who helps coordinate the exhibits, said she’s expecting 5,700 entries to fill the Grange and Grange II buildings.

Exhibitors have until 7 p.m. Thursday to deliver their entries. Judging starts Friday, and the buildings will open to the public at 4 p.m. Friday, once the judging is over.

“I told my judges not to eat dinner, because you’re going to be eating pies and cookies,” Smith said.

One of the non-edible items was a metal stool made from farm machinery that was entered by Joseph Dzvonyicsak, of State College, for the recycled goods category.

Bowmaster said the stool’s seat was made from a plowshare, the legs from a weed remover, and two harrow blades (used to break up soil), were attached and hanging down from the seat.

Inside Grange II, Dina Howell and daughter Moriah were helping set up the tables for the Future Farmers of America exhibit, which includes the detailed logs that participants have kept of the livestock they’ll sell at the auction next week.

In the books, the participants have to keep receipts of all the money they’ve spent over the past year on raising their animals, such as for feed and veterinarian bills.

Then, once they sell the animals at the auction, they’ll be able to calculate whether they made or lost money. It helps them learn that raising animals is a business, said Howell, who has a 25-acre farm in Gregg Township.

“People are paying $500, $600 to support a hog,” Howell said. “This community really supports the kids. It’s impressive.”

Moriah Howell, 20, knows the process well, and she said she never made less than $200 selling an animal. She also had such a hard time parting with a goat one year that she couldn’t bring herself to sell it.

“We had a goat that I loved so much, I was so upset about selling her,” said Moriah Howell, who will be a junior at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown. “She was like a dog. She would follow us around and go on walks with us.”

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