Monday, August 29, 2011

Grange does wonders for your self-esteem!

Late last week, the 136th Centre County Grange Encampment and Fair got under way at the fairgrounds in Centre Hall, PA.  A little history for my non-Centre County-based readership:
The Grange Fair began 136 years ago when Leonard Rhone urged his Progress Grange to join their sister subordinate Granges in having a pic-nik to which they would invite their neighbors and introduce the Grange Organization and the benefits of membership in such a faternity. Since then, it's grown into a real family tradition with some campers going back generation after generation. Tent sites are passed down to family members as prized possessions. Even the size of the Fair has grown to include 950 tents, 1300 RV's, hundreds of concessions, over 7,000 exhibit items, amusement rides, livestock, tractor pulling and much more! Come to Centre Hall, PA and find out why so many folks wrap up every summer at Grange Park with the Centre County Grange Encampment and Fair.  (Source: Grange Fair website.)
As non-natives to Centre County, it has been quite difficult for Chris and I to comprehend the hype that surrounds the Grange Fair.  We've been here for eight Grange Fairs now, and we still. don't. get it.  That doesn't mean there aren't aspects of the fair we don't enjoy (we'll get to those shortly), but on the whole, we can take or leave the Grange Fair.  It isn't the "must do, be all/end all, life revolves around it" event that it is for many Centre Countians.  

We decided to visit the Grange Fair this past Friday night.  Our plan was to have dinner, check out the animals and displays, and then go to the truck pull. 

Arriving at the fair.
Really?!?  This just screams overcompensation.
It's a Bear Affair! This is such a cute ride.
The people watching at Grange Fair is excellent.
On a Friday night, it's spectacular!
Grange Fair Headquarters

The thing that makes the Centre County Grange Encampment and Fair unique is the "encampment" aspect of the fair.  People actually move into old canvas Army tents for the entire length of the fair...but not "camping" style with sleeping bags and cots.  OH, NO!  Not for these "Grangers."  People move real, actual, honest-to-goodness furniture and appliances into their tents.  I kid you not.  Sofas?  Yup.  Fridges?  Absolutely!  Beds?  Yes.  Dressers?  Sure.  Dining room tables?  Heck, yeah.  Not only that, but many of them then "add porches" to the front of the tents and/or decorate the outside.  See for yourself...

This one is pretty basic: white resin chairs on a wooden "deck," with a picnic table inside. The verdict? Boring! Try harder next year, will ya?
This one is a bit better.  Better chairs, but the plywood deck is mediocre.  I definitely see a bed in there, and a mirror - because you have to be able to get slutted up to troll the fairgrounds.
Oh, now this one is a winner.  I see a microwave on a cart, a tall cabinet, and a drying rack for your bath towels because yes, people stay there overnight and shower at the fairgrounds for $1 (four quarters). 
Looking down one of the "lanes" of tents.
Ooooo...I spy some decorations!
Welcome to Candyland, apparently. 
Just a word to the wise...don't accept candy from strangers OR grangers.

These tents are a "big deal" at this fair.  People fight over them in divorces.  The tents are willed down through families.  If you don't have a tent at the fair, you'll NEVER have a tent at the fair.  The last I heard, the wait-list is 1,000 years, or something ridiculous like that.  You know what?  I think I'll live.  There is good news, however.  If you have an RV, you might be able to get an RV spot.  The number of RVs seems to be growing each year...because if you can't move all your worldly possessions from your house into some crappy-ass green tent for one week each year, you can at least park your RV nearby and pretend! 
People in scooters, take note.
(Yes, I'm feeling particularly snarky tonight writing this post.  Deal with it.)
Need to corral your kids?  A dog fence makes perfect sense!
Trailer upon trailer upon trailer...
We did check out some of the RVs on display, but not for bringing to Grange Fair...for like, real camping and stuff.
I suppose if you park this trailer properly, you can take in the sights each morning while you poo...

During fair week, the local newspaper is chock full of Grange Fair stories - how lifelong fair friendships are renewed one week a year (lame!), how the 4-H kids work hard all year to raise their animals for showing (OK, I give these kids mad props for raising an animal, naming it, caring for it, and then sending it off to slaughter), and how people anticipate "eating their way around the fair" with stuff like monkey bread (you can make it at home), Bonfatto's subs ( can get these everyday of the year at...BONFATTO'S!), Sunset Ice Cream (drive to Williamsport, lazy bones!), and ham pot pie from The Boarding House (wait...what?!?).  OK, OK...up until this year, the ham pot pie from The Boarding House has been my one fair food weakness.  It's always a gamble.  Will they have it?  Or will they be sold out?  How long is the line?  How long is the wait?  But it's always been tasty and I do loves me some ham pot pie.  Or at least I did...
OK...we're off to a good start.  I've paid for pot pie. 
But wait!  They've changed the way they serve it.  It's no longer in a flat, square Styrofoam container.  Now it's in a tall, 32 oz. container.  But I see chunks of ham and pot pie squares...let's dig in!
And here, folks, is where the "screw job" reveals itself.  By serving the pot pie in the tall container, they can load you up with broth and you're none the wiser until you've fished out all of the ham chunks, potatoes, and pot pie squares.  In the flat container, you'd be able to see you were getting screwed.  At least 1/3 of the container was broth; I was tempted to take it back to The Boarding House and ask for enough crackers to absorb all of the broth.  What?!?  I take my pot pie seriously!  This?  POT. PIE. FAIL.

Chris got his standard foot-long cheesesteak sub with extra cheese with the featured fair special...a free 16 oz. beverage, "just for today!"  Except that's the special EVERY day!
Waiting for cheesy, steaky goodness...

After finishing our mediocre dinner, we decided to walk up to the horse barns while it was still daylight.  The downside to going to the fair on Friday night is that there would be no equestrian events to enjoy.  That's one of the reasons we've gone on a Saturday or Sunday in years past.  We do enjoy equestrian events, especially the 6-horse hitch competition.  We both like big horses like Percherons and Belgians.  
Snarfing on the noms.
Yeah...I can't caption this photo!  :)
But maybe you can?!?  Submit your best in the comments below!

This miniature horse kept yawning and I managed to capture it.

Several of the wagons were out back and yes, that's a State Trooper wandering the grounds.  The State Police horse team was "in residence" for exhibitions over the weekend.

Something about this horse's suit just screams Lady Gaga!

That's a big hoof and shoe!
One of the State Police horses.

Spring Mountain Percherons' wagon.

One of the Spring Mountain Percherons...the spots looked like star bursts.

We rounded the corner of an aisle in the horse barn and came face to face with this big guy!

This horse was very affectionate; he wanted to be scratched.

Extreme close-up!

Ro-Lin on Clydes' wagon.

Bath time for Mr. Ed.

Wae Up Farms' wagon.
Percherons from SVII.

From the horse barns, we made our way back over to the other side of the fairgrounds to check out the cows, goats, and rabbits.  I have a thing for Jersey cattle; they're so cute!  I also loves me some goats, esp. Nubians.  I would love to have a goat here at the Homestead, but I would feel bad leaving it outside during the winter.  Hmmm...can goats be housebroken?!? 

Chris liked the fuzzy ears on this little gal.
Sleepy goats.
How now, goat.
This guy was looking for a scratch.

Two-for-one goat scratching.


After we got our fill of farm animals, it was time to grab a milkshake and make our way to the truck pull track.
Twilight at the Grange Fair...such a magical time!
(Note: The above caption was not typed with a straight face.)

You can have vegetables at Grange long as you're OK with them being deep fried.

Milkshakes!!!  Black raspberry for me and mint chip for Chris.
Looks like Packer's Concessions got new signage this year.

Chris checked out the Kubotas.

Over at the truck pull track, we found a spot at the fence near the end of the track just in time for some of the last classes of the evening - the "big guns," if you will.  There were some good pulls, but there was only one that I've decided to include here.  It was a great pull, length-wise...until his U-joint exploded!  See for yourself...look for the sparks!  (Note:  Watch it on YouTube if you's so tiny here.)

Check out the tow vehicle they brought in...'cuz that'll end well.  (Hint.  It didn't.)
See those bits on the wall between those two water bottles? 
They came off that truck.  That shouldn't happen. 

So I guess here is where I'll wrap up with my final thoughts, Jerry Springer style...waxing all poetic and such.  Grange Fair is just weird.  I just. don't. get it.  There are far better fairs in the area - Clearfield County, Huntingdon County, and of course, the Bloomsburg Fair.  Those fairs have more animals and educational displays, better entertainment, and you don't have to walk through tent slums the whole time.  I've tried and tried to think of something positive about the Grange Fair and the best I can come up with is that the tenters get off easy when it comes to entertaining friends at the fair since they don't have to worry about cleaning their house prior to having visitors.  They also don't really need to worry about entertaining or feeding visitors.  All they need to do is make sure they have enough folding chairs!  

Another redeeming quality about the fair?  As the title of this posts states, it will do wonders for your self-esteem.  Feeling bad about your lot in life?  Go walk around the fair.  If nothing else, you'll realize you're living a better life than the carnies...but chances are, you'll see enough "sights" to make you realize you've got it pretty damn good.  That and all your furniture is still back at your house.  :)