Among the 1,000 Centre County Grange Encampment and Fair tents, some stand out above the rest with their imaginative themes and decorative lighting.
After a three-year hold on the tent-decorating contest, it has returned with vigor for the 140th anniversary of the fair.
The first category participating tents were judged on was the theme “celebrating 140 years of Grange Fair.”
Kathy Condo’s tent won first place in this category and Miriam Forsythe received second place. Honorable mentions went out to Kurt Breon and Charles and Diane Dreibelbis.
Forsythe, of Millheim, has been attending the fair since she was 10, and has participated in the contest multiple times, occasionally placing with her unique ideas.
This year, her decorations included a series of model tents that show the progression of the fair tents over the years.
“I had the history book when I was making it and I tried to get the actual history right,” Forsythe said. “It starts with the old, the grass floor, then they went to the wood floor for these two. The model tree here is made out of a toilet paper roll and cotton, and as you can see, the tree gets bigger over time.”
At first glance, Forsythe’s work looks impressive, but with a closer look, the minute detail and effort Forsythe put in becomes more apparent.
Not only are the model tents built accurately according to their year, but each tent also has a miniature newspaper in front of it with the name of the current newspaper for that year.
“I didn’t get everything done that I wanted to, but I started around April or May,” Forsythe said. “I tried to work as much as I could on weekends, and this was all spread out in my living room.”
The second category was best use of lights. The first place prize went to Tina Allemon and Marsha Tate came in second. An honorable mention included Helen Rogers Koon.
Eileen Cramer, of Mingoville, decorated her tent with a “Wizard of Oz” theme for this year’s contest.
A lit-up rainbow spans the top of the tent’s archway, a tornado leans against a small house with a pair of stockinged feet sticking out from beneath it and a yellow brick road leads to the tent’s entrance.
“We always decorate, even when there wasn’t a contest, because we just like to do it,” Cramer said. “My daughter chose this theme two years ago and so that’s why we have ‘Wizard of Oz’ this year.”
Cramer has been attending the fair for 54 years, only missing it once in the year she was born.
Despite the amount of work it takes to prepare the decorations, Cramer loves the project and seeing the reactions on children’s faces as they walk past.
“It took us quite a while this year because everything was wet,” Cramer said.
“We had probably about six hours here and then we had to make the house, paint the bricks and feed the lights through the rainbow and find all the materials. I would say it took probably 20 hours, maybe a little more.”
However, the tent decorations are just a small part of Cramer’s affection for the fair.
“It’s just awesome,” Cramer said.
“I love to watch the people here; it’s just a totally unique thing.”