Our View | Fair time means fun, farming and economic impact

The Grange Encampment and Fair opens Thursday, bringing back that annual summer smorgasboard of great food, fun rides, agricultural heritage, family gatherings and huge economic impact.

About 25,000 people a day will visit the fairgrounds in Centre Hall over the event’s 10 days. They’ll walk the midway, listen to live entertainment, meet friends and relatives and share in one of the best things going in Centre County.

This year’s fair boasts 1,500 RV sites and 1,000 tents — maintaining the unique encampment tradition. The Grange equine facility is among the best around, and the event draws hundreds of vendors offering everything from tractors to hot tubs.

“Throughout the weeklong event, Grange Fair has something to offer every fairgoer,” event president Ben Haagen wrote in his welcome letter that appeared in our fair preview guide.

Yes, Grange Fair is a time for fun and fellowship. It’s also a time for financial impact.

Fair organizers estimate that the event has pumped more than $9 million into the local economy over the past five years.

That impact spirals away from the fairgrounds to reach restaurants, motels, stores and other area enterprises.

“It is important to the local economy, because the large percentage of monies that are brought in get turned right back to the community,” Darlene Confer, the Grange Fair manager, told reporter Mike Dawson. “It’s not just Centre Hall or Potter Township, it’s the county. When you look at the numbers and see how much is put right back out into the economy, it’s significant.”

And for the Grange fairgrounds, the economic impact is felt from spring through fall, not just for a couple of busy weeks in August.

The site hosted a large bluegrass festival this summer and sees a variety of events on its sprawling-yet-modern grounds, including some of the top horse shows on the East Coast.

Fairgrounds officials have done considerable work to enhance the opportunities there and to make fair week a great experience.

This year’s gathering will feature enhanced Internet service thanks to a COW — that’s “cell on wheels.”

“There was a cow at the first Grangers picnic, and there will be a COW at the 139th,” LeDon Young, a fair committee member and the event’s longtime secretary, joked during a recent meeting in our offices.

The fair promotes farming, still a leader in our state and local economy.

The event features 4-H and Future Farmers of America youngsters — and many folks who are not so young — displaying the fruits of their labors.

Indeed, the fair is all about cows and pigs and bunnies, award-winning pies and blue-ribbon produce. It’s about tractor pulls and high school bands, the fair queen and the King of Wings.

If that’s not enough, this year’s fair will include a hypnotist and a magician.

Net Wolfe, head waitress at Brothers Pizza in Centre Hall, said of fair: “We love it.”

So do we.

Welcome back, Grange Encampment and Fair.