SHIPPENSBURG >> The 58th Shippensburg Community Fair — that runs July 20-25 at the fairgrounds on Possum Hollow Road — will no doubt be a "reunion" for hundreds of folks with ties to the town. It always is.
But for five women, sisters who range in age from 50-68 and came of age in Shippensburg, this year's fair marks the first time in nearly 50 years that they've all lived in Shippensburg. They're looking forward to the experience.
The Shippensburg fair is a successful blend of agriculture and livestock, home goods and crafts, entertainment, rides and carny games and food in heaping helpings.
Sprawled over 50 acres owned by the Shippensburg Fair Association, the event includes a number of traditional signature events that include the Little Miss and Miss Shippensburg Fair pageants, barnyard olympics and skid-loader rodeo on the opening night Monday.
Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday feature live music and Friday is karaoke night.
Several judged livestock contests with regional significance capture the attention of many, and livestock is on display throughout the week. A horse show, horse-pull contest and tractor pull are also on the schedule. Rides, carny games and a craft show are also hits, and special ride prices are in place for a pair of Kiddie Days on Wednesday and Saturday.
But, ask nearly any random stranger at the fair what drew them and the odds are good that they'll say the renewal of old acquaintances is the magnet — unless, of course, they say the food.
The "Wingert girls" — Diane Goodhart, Chris Bowers, Deb Kelley, Tawnie Mills and Kim Binner — are likely to partake of everything this year.
Kelley, the middle Wingert sister, said the fair has been a part of her summer for as long as she can remember. She recalls visits 40 years ago as a young mother when she and her husband, Rick, climbed up an elevated rail line embankment and down the other side to get to the fair without bucking the traffic and paying the fee to park. It's a practice still used by a multitude of fair-goers to this day.
"I remember toting lawn chairs and dragging the kids up and down, then sitting at the fair visiting people we hadn't seen since the year before," she said. "It was a treat to eat out every night and not have to cook."
Ironically, Mills now lives beside that shortcut to the fair and she sees a stream of people trudge up her driveway every year.
"I could strangle some of them," she said, "but I don't say much, because I did it myself at one time."
Bowers, 65, said she recalls hiking to the fair with her mom and sisters as a youngster.
"Dad was in the Air Force and mom had no driver's license," she reflected, "so we walked down Orange Street and down Lutheran Hill like a row of ducklings behind their mom. We walked to the fair when it was still daylight and walked back home in the pitch dark."
Bowers thinks life was much different in those days.
"It was a treat for us to see the lights and the animals, get on a ride or two and have some ice cream," she said.
Binner, who returned to the area recently after years in Florida, said a strong fair memory for her is walking unaccompanied with Mills to the fair.
Binner and Mills are somewhat younger than their older sisters and walked together to the fair as a pair.
"Mom worked all day and was tired when she got home," Binner said, "so she allowed us to walk there alone as teenagers."
She and Mills both remember working for one of the carny vendors where jewelry was among the prizes.
"We did the engraving on pieces that customers won," Binner said.
For Goodhart, the eldest of the Wingert girls, thoughts of this year's fair are somewhat bittersweet and strongly nostalgic. She returned to Shippensburg this year upon the death of her husband, whom she left town with in 1964 after their marriage.
"I'm glad to be back together with my sisters and I'm looking forward to the fair," Goodhart said. "It's one of my best memories as a child growing up in Shippensburg. I wish Mom could be there. She always enjoyed it so much."
Dale Heberlig can be reached at 717-262-4811.