With 100 years in the books, EFDA hoping for a sun-filled week ahead

By on September 18, 2019

With 100 years in the books, EFDA hoping for a sun-filled week ahead

It’s that time again!

The 101st edition of the Ephrata Fair opens Sept. 24 for five days of fun and anticipation is running high, especially after last year’s disappointment when the much anticipated parade was canceled and another night or two was essentially rained out.

“We’re looking forward to the parade since last year’s was a bummer because of the rain,” said Brandon Sauder, the fair’s first-year social media and public relations person. “It was heart-breaking for everyone.”

But that’s the past, and as Pennsylvania’s largest street fair opens its second century of life, organizer Ephrata Farmers Day Association is looking to the future.

While a couple of popular events including the pedal tractor pull and, most notably, the baby parade have been dropped, other activities have taken their place. The popular cow milking contest is back for its second year. Once a long-time fixture at the fair, the contest disappeared a few years ago. Now it’s back, pitting local celebrities against each other to see who can tap the most milk from a cow in a given amount of time. This year’s event will be a highlight attraction on opening night, set for Tent City in Grater Park Tuesday at 6:30 p.m., showcasing the milking talents of Ephrata Area School District principals and administrators.

This year’s livestock sale Thursday night will also see something new.

“Buyers at the livestock sale will have the option of donating their purchased animal to the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank,” Sauder said. “We’re excited to see how the response is to that.”

Tent City will also see a “Sheep to Shawl” contest on Friday night from 5 to 7 p.m. A crowd-pleaser at the Pennsylvania Farm Show in Harrisburg, this event is making its debut in Ephrata. At the end of the evening, the shawls will be sold.

One more less visible change will occur at the Tent City food stand. In previous years the Young Farmers have operated this stand. No more.

“They didn’t want to continue that moving forward so the Ephrata Fair actually took that stand over,” Sauder said. “They’ll continue the pork chop dinner.”

Following the success of last year’s sale of 100th Ephrata Fair T-shirts, this year an array of fair memorabilia will be offered including mugs ($10), thermal mugs ($10), T-shirts ($10-$12) and hooded sweatshirts ($25-$30). They can be purchased at the fair office.

The 21-year-old Sauder grew up with the fair. The son of Brian and Lynette Sauder, as a youth and a 4-H member he showed pigs at Tent City.

“That was a lot of fun,” he said.

His mother, Lynette, is on the fair’s board of directors and serves on committees for Tent City and the Cow Milking Contest.

The downtown portion of the fair will see no changes. As usual, Main Street and portions of North and South State streets will be closed beginning at 7 p.m., next Monday, Sept. 23. After that, the vendors move their trailers into their assigned spots and Houghton Enterprises starts to assemble its many rides. Anyone planning to enter an exhibit at the fair can do so on Monday from 3 to 8 p.m., at either the Pioneer Fire Hall or at Borough Hall. Farm-related exhibits will be accepted at Grater Park Tent City starting at 4 p.m.; goats, sheep, swine and rabbits at 6 and dairy beef at 7:30.

The midway itself opens at 11 a.m. Tuesday. The popular bake sale opens at 11:30, with proceeds benefiting EFDA. Rides will operate from 5 to 10 p.m. All-you-can-ride bracelets will be sold for $25, and $2 discount coupons are available Tuesday at the fair office. Uptown exhibits close at 8.

In addition to the cow milking contest, Tuesday Tent City activities include antique tractor games at 6 and “When Pigs Fly,” at 7:30. This is a game where folks purchase tickets corresponding to numbered squishy toy animal and can win prizes if theirs lands closest to a target when dropped from a height. The animals are $3 each and proceeds benefit the fair.
The petting zoo will be open from 4-9 p.m.

Wednesday is Senior Citizen’s Day. Seniors can obtain stickers at the fair office that entitle them to discounts at various uptown food stands and at the bingo tent. Free coffee, tea and cookies are available at the fair office. The midway opens at 10 a.m. In Tent City, sheep and goat judging will be taking place.

Wednesday culminates with the 85th annual parade, kicking off from the high school at 7. Many of the special units slated to appear last year will be back (see sidebar article).
Thursday is Kiddies Day when all rides are discounted by 1 ticket while, in the park, the livestock sale starts at 6 p.m. For music lovers, Swingtime Dolls performs classic music of the 1940s at

Whistle Stop Plaza at 7:30 p.m., while Easily Amused takes the stage in the park starting at 7.

Attention largely shifts to Tent City Friday for Family Fun Night, tractor pulls and other activities. Downtown, local act the Den and Terry Duo performs at Whistle Stop Plaza at 6:30 p.m.

Everything ends Saturday. Tent City starts the day with the quoits tournament at 8 a.m. followed by cornhole at 10. On the midway, rides open at noon. Musical entertainment will be provided by the Stephanie Grace Band at Whistle Stop Plaza from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m.

For a full list of scheduled events and rules for exhibitors, see the Ephrata Fair book available at the fair office, 19 S. State St., or at various locations downtown including The Ephrata Review office.

The Ephrata Fair, then called the Farmer’s Day Fair, was begun in 1919 as a fundraiser to host a tribute planned for the following November for local veterans of the First World War. The fair was held on Friday and Saturday, Oct. 17-18 and featured over 700 exhibits of handmade crafts and locally grown crops, all displayed in downtown shop windows. There was musical entertainment in the square and even airplane rides, but no amusement rides for the kids. The first fair raised $88.66 and was called successful “beyond the expectations of anyone.”

A hundred and one years later the tradition of the Ephrata Fair continues.

Larry Alexander is a correspondent for The Ephrata Review.

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