Summer's last fling

Region's residents look forward to county fairs

Tom Lavis County fair time is just around the corner. As August begins, tens of thousands of people are anticipating the excitement and competition of fairs. Whether it's amusement rides, midway attractions, livestock and agricultural exhibits, arts and crafts or live entertainment, the common thread is fun."I would call it summer's last big fling," said Ed Dively, president of Cambria County American Legion Recreation Association Inc., which owns and operates the fair.Dively is relying on more than four decades of experience in determining what people want to see at a county fair.Cambria County's fair, which runs from Sept. 5 - 11, will include national country music recording artists Mark Wills and Sherrie Austin."Mark Wills is the 1999 Country Music Award winner for best new male vocalist of the year," Dively said. "Sherrie Austin is a rising star who first went to Nashville to write songs, but now finds herself in the spotlight with a singing career." Dively said the defunct Joey Chitwood Thrill Show, a Cambria County Fair favorite, will be replaced by the Toyota Thrill show. Fairgoers can choose the thrill of amusement rides on the midway, eat traditional foods or spend time examining a multitude of agricultural exhibits during fair week. "We expect 800 livestock exhibits," Dively said. "We also will be bringing back the Dave Martin rodeo, complete with bull riding. One of the favorite rodeo events has kids from the audience riding sheep and there also are ostrich races. Each of the past years has been standing-room-only at the rodeo." John Holbert, president and general manager of Bedford County Fair since 1953, said there will be "something be everyone" during the 126th year of the Bedford fair, which runs Aug. 8-14. The fairground is located on the western edge of Bedford at Route 30 and Interstate 99. "We listen to what our visitors tell us and found that people wanted more variety in our musical presentations while maintaining an aggressive schedule on motor sports," Holbert said during a telephone interview from the fairgrounds office. Bedford's fair will feature evenings of gospel, country and classic rock entertainment. All grandstand shows and amusement rides are included in the pay-one-price admission of $7.Bedford County Fairgrounds has undergone extensive renovations to its infrastructure in order to make the grounds more visitor friendly. The milking parlor has been upgraded and a small bleacher area has been added to allow the public a better view of the milking process. A new pole building was built to house the chicken and rabbit exhibits. An outdoor horse show ring has been installed to benefit fair competitors by providing a location to exercise horses and ponies and provide a warm-up area prior to competition. Livestock plays a major role at county fairs. The fair is a time for students to highlight their involvement in 4-H programs. Cathy Hostetler, director of Cambria County's Cooperative Extension Office in Ebensburg, said fairs provide opportunities for students to gain recognition for a year's work. "This competition gives kids the opportunity to learn, develop and grow," Hostetler said during a telephone interview
from her office. "They work hard all year on a Livestock project and every year you see the growth of the individuals involved. We are growing kids, not just animals." Hostetler said the 4-H program builds self-esteem and gives members a sense of accomplishment. Byron Glessner, spokesman for Somerset County Fair, said getting the right acts and attractions can be ticklish. Somerset fair runs from Aug. 22-28 in Meyersdale. "I've been involved in the fair for 27 years and it's sometimes difficult to know what will go over big with the crowd," he said during a telephone interview from his Meyersdale area home. "Demolition derbies are popular because once local entries participate, generally the entire family comes out to watch." Glessner expects more than 17,000 visitors to come through the gates. "This will mark only the second year when we offered a one-price admission of $6," Glessner said. "People get to enjoy all the rides and entertainment on the main grandstand and a smaller stage. We have nonstop entertainment throughout the week." The 137th edition of the Indiana County Fair will be held Aug. 29 through Sept. 4 at Mack Park in Indiana. Ed Nehrig, spokesman for Indiana County Fair commitee and regional director of the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, said drought conditions will have an effect on area fairs. "There is little doubt that the dry weather will have an effect on produce and vegetables," Nehrig said. "We are hoping for the same number of exhibitors but their prodicts will probably be nowhere near the size or quality of last years. I'm sure it will be the same story throughout Pennsylvania except for the northwest quadrant near Erie, which hasn't been as hard hit by the drought." New events for the fair include chain-saw sculpturing and an antique competition during the week. "We also are bringing back the oldies group Sh-Boom by popular demand," Nehrig said. "They filled the grandstand last year and people enjoyed the show and the group's style."
The Sh-Boom concert is included in the price of admission, which is $1 at the gate.
Other grandstand entertainment includes a high school band night, a cheerleading expo night, harness racing, tractor and truck pulls and a demolition derby. Some grandstand events will cost an additional fee.
Blair County doesn't have a single county fair, but seven community fairs are staged throughout the region.
Sara Long, spokeswoman for Sinking Valley Fair at Skelp, one of the county's largest events, said its fair would rival most county efforts.
The fairground is located three miles north of the Bellwood Exit on Interstate 99.
The fair features garden-tractor races, exhibits of canned goods and
produce, livestock and live local entertainment.
"We charge $2 for parking, but visitors get a free horse and buggy ride from the parking lot to the fairground," said Long during a telephone interview from her Blair County home. "People also have a chance to milk a goat. Fairs are just great fun."
Used with permission of The Tribune-Democrat
The Tribune-Democrat, August 1, 1999
Tom Lavis' column appears Mondays in the The Tribune-Democrat.

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