Franklin County set for annual fair

August 13, 2004|by DON AINES

Lawn mower races and singing cows will be new attractions this year at the Franklin County Fair that begins Sunday at the Chambersburg Rod & Gun Club on Warm Spring Road, according to Gerald W. Reichard, secretary of the fair commission.

"We'll have an oval track in the arena and we've ordered 200 or 300 bales of hay" to ring the track, Reichard said of the STA-BIL Lawn Mower Racing event scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday.

According to its Web site, the United States Lawn Mower Racing Association was established in 1992 and has competitions for souped-up John Deeres, Cub Cadets and other makes with speeds up to 60 mph. The association requires the blades be removed from racing mowers.


Like NASCAR, the association runs a series of races during the spring and summer and uses a points system to determine the championship, according to the Web site,

There will be four performances during the week by the Moo Beams, a quartet costumed as dairy cattle and promoted by the Mid-Atlantic Dairy Association, according to Reichard. A press release for the group states it is touring fairs to promote a live-action television show.

Such events are a far cry from 150 years ago, when the Franklin County fair's main attraction was Horace Greeley, publisher of the New York Tribune. Famous for his advice to "Go west, young man," Greeley in 1854 gave a lengthy address on the virtues of agriculture that was reprinted in full in the local newspaper, The Repository and Whig, according to Reichard.

That was a year after the Agricultural Society of Franklin County held its first fair on 15 acres it owned a mile west of town, Reichard said.

The fair changed locations and names over the years, he said. The Franklin County Farmers and Breeders Association sponsored a Harvest Home Picnic from 1914 to the early 1930s, Reichard said.

The tradition waned during the Great Depression and World War II and began again after the war when the Franklin County Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs started an annual carnival, Reichard said. Produce and livestock judging were added later and the Franklin County Fair was formally re-established in 1965, he said.

Reichard said he helped with poultry judging that year and has been involved in some capacity ever since. His son Gerald J. Reichard is vice president and Robert Eckstine is president of the fair.

Through the week, which begins Sunday with the Youth Horse Show and vespers service, those attending will see the familiar fixtures of the fair - 4-H and FFA competitions for a variety of dairy and beef cattle, as well as other livestock, crafts and produce.

Horse, tractor and truck pulls in the arena are on the schedule, along with talent shows and gospel singers on the midway stage. Monday night, the fair queen will be named.

Back again this year is the Penn-Ohio Demolition Derby, where drivers of barely functional automobiles seek to reduce the competition to smoking, motionless hulks.

"It's a crowd pleaser, and weather doesn't really affect it," Reichard said of the Aug. 21 event. "If it's a little muddy, it makes for an even better demolition derby."

A complete listing of events can be found at the fair Web site at

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