“Grange Fair is a home away from home.”
These words were spoken by the 2019-2020 Centre County Grange Fair Queen, 17-year-old Morgan Bair of Centre Hall.
In her speech Wednesday during coronation, Bair, a senior at Centre County Christian Academy, painted a vivid picture of how the Grange Fair is a place for everyone — young and old, farmer and non-farmer — to gather and celebrate the influence of agriculture in all of our lives.
“Distance, age and time are not enough to keep our community from coming together each year. There is no doubt that our roots run deep here at the great Grange Fair,” she said.
Starting with the fair’s origin as a picnic of 3,000 people organized by Leonard Rhone to celebrate the harvest and promote the Grange movement, the Centre County Grange Encampment and Fair has grown to the largest tent encampment in the nation, with over 200,000 visitors every year, said Bair.
Bair spoke of visiting the Grange Fair since she was a child, but feeling like she didn’t have a place in the agricultural movement because she didn’t grow up on a farm and hadn’t shown animals growing up.
“My eyes opened from the fair to how much agriculture has had an impact on my life,” she said. Later, she added that as Grange Fair Queen, she wants to promote the fair and “educate people (on) just how much the agriculture community can mean to them.”
Gabrielle Swavely, 20, was named Grange Fair Alternate Queen. Swavely, of Pennsylvania Furnace, graduated from State College Area High School in 2017 and was the 2018-2019 Centre County Dairy Princess.
She, too, spoke of the Grange Fair’s power to bring people together and ground them in common experience.
“Whether you’ve been counting down the days since last fair, or haven’t stopped by in a while, I promise you there’s a place for you on our family tree,” she said.
2018-2019 Grange Fair Queen Amelia Miller, a recent Bellefonte Area High School graduate from Howard, shared her whirlwind experience as queen over the last year, and offered some advice to the newest queen. She urged the queen to treasure the little moments and listen to people’s stories about the Grange Fair.
“Remember what you’re capable of, even after the fact,” she said. “You will remind the public that a young woman is fully capable of being smart, beautiful and tough. You will help younger girls realize there is a place for them, too, in the agricultural industry.”
As queen, Bair will receive $500 and as alternate queen, Swavely will receive $300. Both remaining contestants, Madison Peters and Roselyn Weaver, will receive $100.
In January, Bair will compete for the Pennsylvania State Fair Queen title.
“Remember this: the world and our community has so much to teach you. You only have to be open to learning,” said Miller.
Bair will preside over the 145th Centre County Grange Fair from Friday-Aug. 24.