Ephrata has a fever of ‘101’

By on September 25, 2019

It’s the year after the big anniversary for the fair and all signs point to a great week

Cow-milking contest with school administrators highlights Ephrata Fair opening

The 101st annual Ephrata Fair — Pennsylvania’s largest street fair — started off with something for everyone, including an old-fashioned cow-milking contest on a baseball diamond surrounded by hundreds of fairgoers.

This year’s contenders for coaxing the most milk from the cow and best milking team were all members of the Ephrata Area School District administration.
Separated into two teams, they included purple team captain, Dr. Jacy Clugston-Hess, assistant superintendent of elementary education, and Gold Team captain Dr. Richard Hornberger, assistant superintendent of secondary education.

Lynette Sauders, co-chair of Tent City with Ryan Cochran, was pleased with the turn-out for the milking contest.

“Last year was such a great event, and we were trying to figure out another way to make it happen,” Sauders said. “We notified the school and they got the people for us. It’s a great crowd and we’re excited about the event.”

Theater owner and local entrepreneur Penn Ketchum, dressed in a white dinner jacket, blue jeans and a purple school district ball cap, served as emcee for the event.

“This used to be a casual competition,” Ketchum told the crowd of about three hundred people. “But tonight; this is going to be fierce. The conversations up here were pretty tense…this cow milking contest will be one for the ages.”

Fulton Elementary principal Josh McCracken, a purple team member, was cheered on by students who held signs saying “Fulton Rocks” while chanting: “Mr. McCracken! Mr. McCracken!”

Sheri Horner, Akron Elementary principal, wore a black and white Holstein hat, complete with fake horns. Tracy Blunt, Clay Elementary principal, rounded out the purple team.
Along with Hornberger, the gold team members were Kevin Deemer, Ephrata Intermediate School principal; Brett Esbenshade, Highland Elementary principal; and Pete Kishpaugh, middle school principal.

Word got out that Highland Elementary’s principal learned to milk a cow by practicing on the faux cow at Dutch Wonderland.

Teams were chosen randomly by picking eggs from a basket that had either a gold or purple bandana inside.

“This is going to be the longest 90 seconds of their lives,” Ketchum told the audience. “It’s not like a relay to see who’s fastest; it’s all about getting the most milk.”

Some missteps included Horner losing her hat; Clugston-Hess’ cow stepped in the milking bucket: and Kishbaugh’s bucket twice tipped over. When Deener’s cow became restless, a third party had to hold the bucket in place.

 Sadie Garner from Lititz gets a wide-eyed look at the live animals in Tent City Tuesday night, much to the delight of her mother.

Ketchum led the crowd in counting down each participant’s last ten seconds.

“You only have countdowns for a few important events, like New Year’s Eve, space shuttle launching and cow-milking contests,” Ketchum said.

Klugston-Hess’ pedigree as a former dairy princess could have given the Gold Team an advantage the Purple Team “handily” beat the Gold Team, with Clugston-Hess winning the award for the individual person getting the most milk; an amazing two pounds, 12 ounces.
It’s possible that Hornberger comes from a non-farm background, as his milking technique probably left the cow wondering what was going on. Hornberger’s results barely covered the bottom of the bucket.

When told his efforts yielded only ten ounces of milk, Kevin Deemer, intermediate school principal said “We’re going for quality, not quantity.”

Deemer admitted to Ketchum that he had done nothing to prepare for the competition, thereby inadvertently giving children a lesson in perseverance.

Deemer’s milking rival was Clay Principal Tracy Blunt, who got an impressive two pounds of milk from her cow.

Tracy Blunt, Clay Elementary principal (left) high-fives Sheri Horner, Akron Elementary principal as the purple EASD administration team wins Tuesday night’s cow-milking contest in Tent City.

The two obliging cows who participated in the competition came from the farm of Ruby and Diedre Bollinger. They were mother and daughter Jerseys, named Midori and Mango.

At the competition’s finale, it was not even close. The gold team tallied two pounds, six ounces of milk, while the trophy went to the purple team, who managed to get 14 pounds.

“I was so glad to see the crowd tonight,” said Fair President Elaine Sensenig. “I think the schools promoted the contest and it was great to see so many people here tonight. This has such a family atmosphere down here.”

For the second year, the “When Pigs Fly” contest garnered a lot of interest, with 260 people buying squishy rubber animal replicas to try to win one of three prizes.

The pigs didn’t so much as fly, as they dropped from a 75-ft-high tree-trimming bucket supplied by Premier Tree Service.

But “When Pigs Fall” didn’t have the same ring, so the fair committee stayed with “When Pigs Fly.”

A large bull’s eye was painted on the ball field and the three pigs landing closest to the bull’s eye would be the winners.

Premier owner Ryan Horst carried the bag of squishy pigs in the bucket and held on as the bucket raised to its 75-feet height, before dropping the pigs to the target below.

This year’s prizes were baskets with gift cards and Ephrata Fair merchandise.

Winners of the “When Pigs Fly” contest were Diane Whitekettle, first place; Ryan Weaver, second; and Sandy Adair, third.

Ephrata Fair officials check for the winner in the “When Pigs Fly” contest Tuesday night.

Waiting for the pigs to drop, Tami and Don Burkholder of Ephrata, with granddaughter, Halie Sutliff, 11, talked about their affection for the fair.

“I was born and raised here, so it’s something we always did,” Tami Burkholder said. “We started coming every Tuesday night for the pork chop dinner.”

Halie said she really just wanted to see the bunnies and was wishing she could take home one of the dwarf bunnies.

“It’s the food, of course,” said Don Burkholder. “That grilled pork chop dinner is out of this world.”

“I didn’t realize there was so much food in Tent City,” added Tami. Over the years, the fair has stayed much the same, said Tami. But ways of communicating have changed with the advent of social media.

Lynette Saunder showing the winning animal in the “When Pigs Fly” contest.

“I was at the beach, so I messaged a friend to put our chairs out for the parade,” Tami said. “We love the parade and we have our spaces ready for tomorrow night.”

The fair’s famous pork chop dinner had been organized by the Young Farmers Association as a fundraiser for many years. But this year, the group disbanded, Sensenig said, so the fair stepped in.

“We tried to see – can we take this over,” Sensenig said.
With the fair board’s approval, Board Member Terry Sheetz took charge with the result that the pork chop dinner tradition continues.

“I haven’t heard numbers yet, but I believe it was smooth sailing,” Sensenig said. “It certainly looked busy.

“The fair is trying to become more self-sufficient and raise funds ourselves because our expenses keep going up,” Sensenig said.

Taking a few moments, the Ackley family of Ephrata enjoyed milkshakes from Tent City.

Russell Ackley said he’s been coming to the fair ever since he was a youngster, and often showed pigs.

“It hasn’t really changed much,” Ackley said. “I like the food and I like to see all the animals and the exhibits.”

Grandson Dawson is just over a year old, but it’s his second Ephrata Fair, said his parents, Caitlyn and Joshua Ackley.
Dawson visited the fair last year when he was but a few weeks old.

Cheryl Ackley said, like her husband, she came to the fair as a school child.

 The winning cow-milking team, from left to right, Fulton Elementary Principal Josh McCracken, Clay Principal Tracy Blunt, Akron Elementary Principal Sheri Horner, and Dr. Jacy Clugston-Hess, assistant superintendent of elementary education.

“Our kids showed animals here; they were in 4-H and showed sheep and goats,” Cheryl said. “We spent a lot of time here when they were growing up, and now we have a new generation coming along.”

“I just like coming to eat, hanging out and seeing friends, said Josh Ackley. “This will be something for him to do now, too.”

“I like the whole atmosphere,” Caitlyn said. “I like seeing the exhibits and also seeing people you know.”

In the exhibit tent, among the pumpkins and potatoes, Lori Lehman of Clay Township was looking at the displays with daughter Rylee, 9, one of her four children with her at the fair.

“I enjoy looking at the arrangements of vegetables and flowers and seeing people’s creativity,” Lehman said. “I also enjoy watching my children have fun here. We wouldn’t miss it.”

Rylee said she enjoyed seeing all the animals and petting the llama, sheep, and calf in the petting zoo area.

Pete Kishpaugh, middle school principal, milking during Tuesday night’s contest.

“Later we’ll go to Main Street for cotton candy,” Lehman said. “This is a good time to see friends you don’t often see…and we try not to miss the parade, too.”
Leaving Tent City for the night were Cindy and Kerry Moyer, with grandchildren Reid, 8; Micah, 6; and Claire, 2.

“Wasn’t that fun, guys?” Cindy asked her gang. “We look forward to Tent City and the pork chop dinner. We like to see the animals and they like to see the tractors.”

For Kerry, it comes down to basics: “It’s the food,” he said.

Marylouise Sholly is a freelance feature writer for the The Ephrata Review. She welcomes your comments and questions at weezsholly@verizon.net. 

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