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Rain and drought hit Franklin fair

August 24, 1997

By KAREN MASTERSON

Staff Writer

CHAMBERSBURG - The Franklin County Fair suffered two blows for this year's week-long event: rain on Wednesday and dry sunshine throughout most of the spring and summer.

"Entries were down this year because of the drought," said Dick Ernst, vice president of the Franklin County Fair, a nonprofit organization that runs the fair every year.

He said the drought and a drenching rain on Wednesday prevented this year's turnout form matching the crowd of 38,000 that visited the fair in 1996.

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But Saturday's sunshine helped. The Barnyard Olympics - of sack races, pedal pulls and slow bike races - were in full swing. Mostly for kids, the races encouraged screams of laughter, and fear in mothers.

"They're going to break their heads. Oh, Lord," said Donna Brooks, watching her 10-year-old son Daniel fall twice as he hopped toward the finish line.

In addition to the olympics, the fair featured a tractor pull, rodeo, horse pull and amusement park rides.

But the real purpose of the county fair is to educate people in agriculture, according to Gerald Reichard, fair president and agriculture teacher at Waynesboro Area Senior High School.

"Fairs are designed to compare products. Can I raise a bigger and better ear of corn than you can. Or bake a better a pie? Historically, we've tried to emphasize what the ideal is in whatever category," Reichard said.

This year the ideal was compromised because drought stunted the growth of certain fruits, vegetables, hay and grains, he said. Consequently, entries in all these categories were down.

The agricultural competitions took place all week, and the winners, along with other entries, remained on display Saturday for fair visitors.

Ernst explained that a bail of hay that took the blue ribbon won because of its green color and tender texture, something that is difficult to achieve in a drought. He also pointed at the peaches.

"The drought did affect peaches. This year they're smaller than normal."

Next to the agriculture display stood the baby barnyard.

"This guy here is the one who makes all the noise," Ernst said, pointing to a boisterous adult donkey. He said the baby barnyard was there to educate people on young livestock, which included piglets, calves, kids and chicks.

At around 4 p.m. Saturday, the last day of the fair, the amusement park and olympics began winding down and more people arrived with lawn chairs in tow for an the evening of live gospel music.

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