It’s August, it’s hot, it must be fair time
The Franklin County Fair has long been a Harshman family affair, but the type of participation evolves with the changes in their lives. Jean and Larry Harshman are entering exhibits reflective of their talents next week, but son Travis, now 25, is not. But when he did, it meant living at the fair grounds for a week.
The dairy farmers from Clayhill used to enter cows when Travis was a 4-H member. That meant eating and sleeping on site to take care of the animals' needs. They all enjoyed the experience at the time. It meant connecting with the 4-Hers from across the county. The fair was the one time of year all of the youth could be together in one place.
The fair opens Sunday, Aug. 16 and runs through Saturday, Aug. 22 at the Chambersburg Rod and Gun Club. This year Travis will participate in Wednesday night's tractor pull, operating a Farmall 1206 in the 12,500 pound category. The event begins at 7 p.m. Aug. 19 "and can run until midnight," Jean said with a laugh. "It's long."
She will again enter watercolor paintings and Larry is exhibiting farm products such as grain and hay. "We're doing the easy stuff now days," he said.
"Most people show for the fun and the competition," said Jean. Winners get ribbons and historically, premiums, a monetary recognition for the place finishes.
However, the not-yet-passed budget of the state of Pennsylvania has far-reaching effects, even down to the county fair level. A state fair fund typically provided enough cash to award prize money such as $20 for a top steer, or $3 for a home-sewn dress or impressive tomatoes. The state money has not been allocated, and Jean, a member of the fair board, is not confident it will be.
"We're hoping for half, but I don't think we'll get any," she said. "That puts us in a bind. We wanted to at least pay the youth but we're not counting on it. They will still get their ribbons and trophies."
Larry served his own stint on the fair board, and Jean has been active for the past decade, serving on the 4-H Development Committee. Some of the 4-H clubs will be selling beef, pork and ice cream at their food stands. The ice cream sales support a number of causes, including a farm experience exchange program. "They're screaming for help," Jean said. "Kids have to help if they want to go on an exchange to another state."
The couple takes in pretty much everything available during the annual fair, and they have some favorites. They watch the cattle and open shows, 4-H events, karaoke contests and the talent show. They also get to the bake sale in the food pavilion, where homemade entries are auctioned off. "The item is minus the small piece taken out by the judges for taste testing," Jean warned. "It's always fun."
Admission fees allow visitors free access to all of the activities on the fairgrounds. Special events each night include: Monday, the Franklin County Fair Little Miss, Princess and Queen contests and a horse pull; Tuesday, karaoke and a skid steer rodeo; Wednesday, talent contest and truck and tractor pull; Thursday, garden tractor pull; Friday, truck and tractor pull and square dancing by the Whirlybirds; Saturday, The Bumbaugh Family and a demolition derby. The opening vesper service on Sunday, Aug. 16 is free and features music by The Gospel Travelers.
A carnival is also set up with all-night rides for $9. Complete information about the fair is available at franklincountyfair.org