Exhibitors, animals, visitors ready for annual Pennsylvania Farm Show

Emily Allegar laughs as Buddy, her 7-month-old black Berkshire, Buddy, nibbles on her boots on Thursday. Buddy will be shown next week in the Pennsylvania Farm Show in Harrisburg.
Emily Allegar laughs as Buddy, her 7-month-old black Berkshire, Buddy, nibbles on her boots on Thursday. Buddy will be shown next week in the Pennsylvania Farm Show in Harrisburg. CDT photo

After school Thursday, Emily Allegar, of State College, made the drive to Boyd Corl’s Buffalo Run Road farm to feed and water her pig as she does every day.

Bundled to protect herself from the below-freezing temperatures, the Grange Fair queen dutifully filled a feeder and a water dish for Buddy, a 7-month-old black Berkshire — a pig she hopes will bring her a good sale at the Pennsylvania Farm Show in Harrisburg.

The farm show, described on its website as the “largest indoor agricultural exposition in the nation,” opens its doors Saturday for eight days of animals, exhibitions and competition.

The show, which marks its 99th year in 2015, welcomes visitors and exhibitors from across the state, including Centre County, who arrive with animals, crops and crafts to be judged and showcased. Vendors and organizations also attend to promote their latest wares and educate the public on the newest agricultural innovations.

It will be the first time Allegar, 17, has shown a pig in Harrisburg.

“I’ve shown rabbits at the farm show,” she said. “But friends have told me I should show more, so that’s how I got involved down there.”

With Boyd’s help, Emily loaded Buddy into a scale, fingers crossed that he would come in under the 290-pound weight limit. But Buddy tipped the sales at about 305 pounds.

“We can switch their feed to oats,” she said. “It makes them feel full without any gain.”

A pig can also lose 10 to 15 pounds just in the drive to Harrisburg due to stress, she said.

Emily is not the only Grange alumna to be involved with the show. Grange Fair President Ben Haagan has presented his rabbits at the show in the past, but this year he will lend his talents as a rabbit judge.

Haagan said he had rabbits while growing up and has been showing them continually since 1990. After his daughter moved, she encouraged him to pursue a judging license, which he earned in 2010.

“I’m able to judge sanctioned shows across the nation,” he said. “Actually worldwide if I wanted to judge.”

As an American Rabbit Breeders Association-sanctioned show, he said, he would be judging rabbits Friday and Saturday. He and about five other judges will look at 1,200 to 1,500 rabbits, each judging about 250 of them.

The best rabbits are kept for the full show, he said.

Cole Mann, 19, of Howard, knows the pressure of showing rabbits at the farm show. Although he has no entries this year, he said he’s been showing there since 2011.

Entries have to be sent in about a month ahead, he said. The rabbits are bundled up and driven to Harrisburg for judging, which begins at about 8 a.m.

In his first year, he won best of show for his Rex rabbit, he said, a breed known for its dense fur. He’s also taken first place with other rabbits.

The animals that place are kept for the duration of the show, Haagan said. The farm show has staff to care for the smaller animals all week so the exhibitors don’t have to be there every day, Mann said.

Because he doesn’t have to worry about showing any animals this year, Mann said, he’s looking forward to watching his friends who are showing rabbits and spending time with family.

“Everyone enjoys a good farm show,” he said. “I’m excited to get out and experience it and have a good time, as always.”

Allegar’s journey to the show will start early, at midnight Sunday, she said. Buddy will be loaded up and driven to Harrisburg by about 2 a.m. for check-in.

The pig show is Monday, she said. If Buddy is chosen for the top half of his class, he goes on for sale. If not, he and the rest are taken away for market value.

“You still get some money,” she said, “but hopefully you’ll get to make more if you make it to the sale.”