Crowds Swarm 98th Fair

By on September 28, 2016
This image from the top of East Main Street shows the crowd filling the space between vendors on Saturday night. This was a typical scene throughout what appeared to be a record week for many.

This image from the top of East Main Street shows the crowd filling the space between vendors on Saturday night. This was a typical scene throughout what appeared to be a record week for many.

It isn’t every day that the Hillbilly Express toot-toots its way around a quiet, tree-lined street in Ephrata, surrounded on either side by stately Colonial homes — and that’s what makes it so much fun.

The 2016 Ephrata Fair breezed into town last week, bringing fun and games and pizza-scented air along with it.

Galen Kulp, president of the fair committee, and wife, Freda, were strolling along the ride-packed Main Street Saturday evening, enjoying the activity on all sides.

While the weather turned into autumn that evening, the cooler air didn’t hurt attendance, Galen Kulp said, adding that the key to a great fair is great weather.

“We didn’t have any rain this week and that gives us bigger crowds,” Kulp said.

Though official numbers are yet available, some vendors had record years, he said.

Parade attendance was also up.

“I was in the parade,” Kulp said. “Attendance was up and I’ve heard that from other people. I don’t know if it was record or not but turnout was real high.”

Despite the increased traffic, crowds were orderly, according to Ephrata Police.

“Gratefully, the Fair was mostly uneventful,” said Ephrata Police Lt. Chris McKim

There were two public drunkenness arrests that occurred within the fair foot print, “that was all for the criminal activity,” he said.

While crowds were noticeable lower at the BMX stunt bike show compared the the canceled pig chase, Galen Kulp said the crowd were energetic and appreciative.

“I thought the crowd was pretty good considering it was a last minute replacement with only three weeks notice,” he said.

This is the 98th year for the Ephrata Fair, Kulp said, explaining that the event was started by a handful of Ephrata businessmen in 1918 to honor World War I veterans.

It’s been growing ever since, but, Kulp said, he believes the Fair now is as big as it’s going to get, as it fills Main and State streets and spills into surrounding side streets.

“Over 50 years ago, we moved the cattle and the agriculture exhibits to the park, to Tent City,” Kulp said.

“We’re a street fair and that’s unusual; most fairs are gated,” Kulp said. “But we are the largest street fair in Pennsylvania. We don’t charge people to get in — I don’t see how we could.”

For Freda Kulp, not having to cook this past week made her happy. The toasted cheeseburgers and fries served up by the Akron Lions Club and the chicken pot pie made by Hinkletown Mennonite Church are two of her favorite fair meals, she said.

“I’m proud of how the Ephrata community comes together for this — and we’re all volunteers,” Freda Kulp added.

The Akon Lions Club was especially busy as the stand sold out of $5 toasted cheeseburgers by about 6 p.m. on Saturday. Akron Lions would have sold out much earlier if not for Weiser’s Market, Galen said.

“They would have run out much earlier if not for getting 1,700 burgers on Saturday from Tim Weiser who is a (Akron Lions Club) member,” he said .

From face painting to Ferris wheels to fish bowls, the Fair had it all.

Tall and tattooed, Albert Casterlin of Denver and wife, Sarah, were lobbing ping pong balls at fish bowls as fast as they could, trying to get a fish for daughter, Hazel, who sat patiently waiting in her stroller.

Casterlin, formerly of New York, said this was his second year visiting the Ephrata Fair.

“I love it,” Casterlin said. “It’s just friendly, not so overwhelming. It’s a small community and family-oriented.”

“For me, it’s tradition,” said Sarah Casterlin, an Ephrata High School graduate. “And, the fun.”

Sarah, throwing underhand, got baby Hazel a fish.

Down the street, Kristin Eichler of Lititz watched husband, Christopher, and daughter, Cat, 9, climb onto a Ferris wheel seat, as she stayed standing safely on the ground.

“I’m letting him take this hit; I’ll take one later,” Eichler said. “It’s just a fun night with the family, that’s why we like it.”

The fair was a teen-magnet, too, drawing crowds of teens checking out the live music or hanging with friends.

Thirteen-year-old Jaylee Stringhum of Lititz was taking photos of her friends, Olivia Here, and Olivia Welk, both 13, as they checked out the fair.

Jaylee noted that the fair was like a shopping mall of fun, with everything in one place.

“It’s like, all together and you don’t have to go all over,” she said. “Also, it’s on the pavement and that’s nice.”

Here and Welk, eighth graders at Warwick High School, said just walking around and playing the games was a good way to spend the day.

“It’s pretty at night, too, with all the lights on,” Here added.

Taking a break on sidewalk benches were Sue Mercer of Terre Hill and Yasmina Varga of New Jersey.

“She’s my friend and she’s never been to a country fair before, so I said ‘come on over,’ “ Mercer said, referring to Varga. “I’m a New Holland Fair person myself, because that was my stomping grounds when I was younger.”

“It’s nice to see the community come out and it’s a good way to get to know your neighbors,” Varga said of the fair.

The two planned to take in the sites, eat fair food, and people-watch, Mercer said.

“Fair food; you can’t beat it,” Mercer said. “And, Fink’s Fries, they’re the best – they have them at the New Holland Fair, too.”

Mercer’s daughter, Kylene, 15, was into the food, too, especially “any kind of fattening food,” she said, like fries and fried Oreos.

Her friend, Davon Martin, also 15, and a sophomore at Garden Spot High School, was impressed with some of the more exciting rides, like the spinning Zephyr.

“That’s one of the best,” Martin said.

Carrying armloads of game-won stuffed animals and inflatable toys, Hope Lowe of Ephrata and Russell Lehman of Elizabethtown were making the rounds with Hope’s children, Darrell, six, and Abbey, three.

“It’s something for the kids to do,” Lowe said. “They like the games and Darrell really likes the rides…and we’d come just for the food, like the fried Oreos; they’re really good.”

Darrell was hoping to try out the Gravitron, an ominous-looking, round hunk of metal that sucked in people and spun them around.

Mom said he’d have to wait until he’s older. Much older.

Marking his first time at the Ephrata Fair, Lehman said he was impressed by all the fair had to offer.

“It’s also pretty cool that it’s on a street,” he said.

Looking like she had been caught in a snowstorm, with a generous head to toe sprinkling of powdered sugar, Sue Peters of New Jersey’s Festival Foods was handing out funnel cakes and fried Oreos to customers.

Covered in crispy batter, the Oreos looked uncomfortably like fat breaded oysters.

“It’s chocolate outside and it’s melted chocolate inside,” Peters said. “Oreos are the number one cookie in America and this (frying) makes them a little better. So it’s easy to see why Oreos are such a hit. Funnel cakes are still a bigger seller, but it’s close.”

Patrick Burns contributed to this story.

Patrick Burns is social media editor and a staff writer for The Ephrata Review. He welcomes your questions and comments and can be reached at or at 721-4455.

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