Parked trailers surrounded all but one side of Neva Johnston’s lot at the Centre County Grange Encampment and Fair grounds, but that almost wasn’t enough room for her son to fit their Hi-Lo camper in.
Terry Johnston, 21, pulled into the empty lot diagonal from their spot and backed up 16 painstaking times until he got it to fit. Sort of.
“We have to get it 31/2 feet to the right,” Neva Johnston, of Grove City, said. “We’ve always had it to the right of the pole.”
“What we always did isn’t going to work this time,” said Wayne Rishell, who helps park trailers at the Grange Fair.
These are the types of small dilemmas Rishell faces when he helps Grange Fair trailers park days before the fair kicks off. He said it was easier when there were only 15 rows of campers 39 years ago and when campers weren’t so large.
Now, it’s like a puzzle with 1,500 pieces, one for each trailer that will be parked at the Grange Fair.
“Getting everybody in is a lot harder than it used to be, but it’s still fun to get them in, but it’s just a lot harder,” Rishell said. “You need to have patience to do it.”
The Johnstons also needed help this year, not just from Rishell, but five other campers and attendants who noticed how tight of a squeeze Terry Johnston had.
“I’ve never parked it, but my mom wanted me to do it this time,” Terry Johnston said. “I just needed a few good directors.”
Rodney and Marge Bressler got a head start to pull their trailer into its spot with ease.
“We’re only a quarter-mile up the road, so we didn’t have very far to go,” Rodney Bressler, 66, of Centre Hall, said.
The Bresslers started using a trailer about 20 years ago, but handed down their tent to their son, Bradley; daughter-in-law, Amy; and granddaughter, Abigail.
“It’s just tradition,” Marge, 65, said. “It’s a friendly place. We have the same spot every year and the same neighbors every year. Some of them use their vacations to come here.”
The fair has a personal meaning to a lot of people, such as Stephanie Dry, who paid for a bench to be built at the Grange Fair in memory of her mother-in-law, Carol Dry. She told her family they would look for the memorial bench before they went to their tent.
“We came like we usually do and were driving toward our tent, but we were looking for her bench,” Stephanie Dry, 42, of Boalsburg, said. “And I couldn’t believe it. We were driving, and I saw out of the window where it was. It was so close to our tent. It was the perfect spot.”
The bench dedicated to Carol Dry was about 20 feet from the tent that she stayed in for each Grange Fair.
“I married into this chaos, but she was a lifer,” Stephanie Dry said.
The Krumrine family is full of lifelong Grange Fair tenters, and they’ll have four generations staying in one tent this year. The matriarch of the family, June Krumrine, didn’t hesitate to climb a ladder to tie a tarp to metal poles with bungee chords for their porch.
“He’s got a bad hand, he’s got a bad tummy, she’s got bad legs and I’m the good one,” June, 82, of College Township, said as she flexed her biceps.
Krumrine said she believes her grandfather began attending the fair in its first year in 1874, but she couldn’t say for certain.
“From the time it started, from what I understand, my grandfather came to the picnic,” Krumrine said. “That’s what us old-timers call it. To us, it’s still the picnic.”
She has passed down her experiences at the Grange Fair to her great-grandchildren the same way her grandparents did for her.
“They have so much fun here,” Krumrine said. “It reminds me of when I played like they did, and they’ve become hooked to it each year, too. It’s a blast for all of us.”