CHAMBERSBURG – “Good Things are Growing” is the theme for this year’s Franklin County Fair, to be held July 10-16 at 3725 Warm Spring Road, Chambersburg.
The 2016 fair will feature rides, games and food provided by a new vendor. Returning highlights include performances by The Fabulous Hubcaps, demolition derbies, tractor pulls and a wrestling match-up at the Franklin County Fair main stage.
Robert Eckstine, Chairman of the Franklin County Fair’s board, explains that the fair was started more than 100 years ago but wasn’t held continuously until the last 50 years “It didn’t have enough people stepping up to the plate to keep it going,” Eckstine said.
But this year – true to the tag-line – good things are growing in Franklin County, and that includes the fair itself.
“Exhibits and space rentals are up this year,” Eckstine said.
New this year is an antique tractor show on July 15 and 16, where $100 prizes will be awarded to the best featured tractor and the best original tractor. The show is the inspiration of Garrett Starr, a recent high school graduate.
“There needs to be more people of his generation getting involved in these things,” Eckstine said of Starr. “It’s very encouraging that he wants to be a part of it. The tractor show is 100 percent his idea.”
Charlie Chopper, Ring of Fire
The biggest change this year is a new vendor that will be handling the rides, concessions and midway for the fair.
While 2016 is Bartlebaugh Amusement’s debut at the Franklin County Fair, the State College-based company has been bringing smiles to fair attendees of all ages for more than 30 years.
“Everything of ours is new to you guys because we haven’t been there before,” said Bill George, promoter and show manager for Bartlebaugh. “We’re going to bring you an array of great thrill rides that are good for the entire family, some great food ... We don’t use any prepackaged foods whatsoever. And we’re going bring you a great assortment of carnival games – most of our carnival games are ‘winner every time.’”
For children, they offer rides like Charlie Chopper, a family ride that lifts riders into the air with all of the sounds and excitement of riding in a helicopter. Anyone from toddlers to adults can ride it, and parents can ride with their children.
For more adventurous riders, there is the Ring of Fire. “The Ring of Fire is a constantly looping roller coaster,” George explained. “It takes thrill seekers upside-down numerous times, both forwards and backwards.”
There was also be perennial fair favorites such as bumper cars and the Gravitron, which spins riders around to give them a feeling of weightlessness.
It takes about a day and a half for the 40-plus crew to set up all of the rides and other equipment including the food trailers.
“All of our food is homemade,” said George. “For example, in our pizza trailer, we make our pizza dough from scratch. We make our pizza sauce from scratch. And then we put the pies together right in front of you and bake them in the oven. For our funnel cakes, we’re in there with the eggs and the flour and the sugar making the batter and cooking them right in front of you. Our bakery trailer, same thing. We’re making all of the baked goods, and it’s all from scratch. Nothing pre-packaged or from a box.”
George described the rides, midway and food with the zeal of a carnival barker.
“We are absolutely looking forward to coming to your fair this year,” he said, “and we’re sure that you guys are going to be glad we’re there, too.”
The commonwealth connection
The Franklin County Fair is a member of the Pennsylvania State Association of County Fairs and is eligible for funds made available through the Pennsylvania Agricultural Fair Act of 1986. The PA Fair Fund provides money to assist fair planners cover operational costs and premiums paid out to participants in the form of reimbursements.
The reimbursements also help support 4-H organizations and the National FFA Organization (FFA) in leadership roles in county fairs.
However, because the passing of a state budget has been notoriously unpredictable in Pennsylvania, it leaves fair planners unsure if funds spent today will be reimbursed down the line.
With this in mind, Eckstine cut expenditures to minimize financial risks and manage expectations of fair participants who may be eligible for the premiums, which are outlined in detail in the fair’s information book.
“Any place we could cut money, we cut,” he said. “Mostly everybody who’s in charge of something was told early on, ‘Hey, you’re going to cut 15 percent off of your budget this year.’ Our overall budget is probably cut that much. We’ll see. Until we know what’s going to happen, we didn’t want to stick our necks out and promise people money that we were going to be able to pay to them.”
Despite the potential for budget concerns, the 2016 fair is expected to be bigger and better than in previous years because the rides, the food and the exhibits are all there to draw in Eckstine’s favorite part: the people.
“Just come out and have a good time,” he said. “That’s what it’s all about.”
The cost of admission for Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday is $5 for single admissions and walk-ins or $10 per carload of attendees. On Friday night, admission is $10 for each attendee over 13 years old, $3 for each attendee between 6 and 12 and free for children 5 and under. Parking is free every day.
The gate admission gives attendees access to all midway, stage and arena events including the tractor pulls, demolition derbies, talent contests, karaoke contents, fair queen contests, baby barnyard and other exhibits. Saturday is Special Family Fun Day where there is no admission fee for anyone arriving before 1:30 p.m. and free kiddie rides between 2 and 4 p.m.
Find a complete fair schedule and fair booklet containing additional information and coupons at www.franklincountyfair.org/.