WRIGHTSTOWN >> Bucks County’s homegrown agricultural spirit will be on display when the 71st Annual Middletown Grange Fair opens on Wednesday, August 14 on Penns Park Road in Wrightstown.
There, inside the animal barns and amidst the antique tractors and 4-H exhibits, visitors can rediscover the county’s rich agricultural past, present and future while gaining a better understanding of the role farming plays in their community and the food they find on their tables.
More than 65,000 patrons are expected to attend the five day event to be held at the fairgrounds located just north of Newtown from August 14 to 18.
Showcasing the county’s rich agricultural community, the fair is a “create-your-own adventure activity,” said Amber Dilanni, who is directing this year’s fair with Roy VanderWyck and Lynne Bowen. “We try to have something for everyone so if you’re an animal lover, a foodie, a music fan, or anyone in between, there’s something here for you.”
This year’s event, put together entirely by volunteers, features new events daily, including educational wildlife programs from Jungle Joe, five tractor parades, craft demonstrations and activities, as well as continual entertainment acts throughout each day.
“This year we have made some changes to our entertainment,” said Dilanni, with a number of new nighttime acts: Famous Rumors, Big Chill, Jake’s Rockin’ Country Band, the Buzzer Band and Borderline Bluegrass Band.
“We also have some new activities for children taking place each day,” continued Dilanni, including a make-your-own wooden bow-tie program, a milkweed planting demonstration, some fiber arts activities, and the 4H is running a Mr. Spud contest.
“This year, there is a Kombucha class in the beer division, a Fairy Garden class in the floral department, a Spotted Lanternfly category in the photography department, a Digital Art category in the artwork department. We try to add new classes each year to provide ways for new people to join in the fun of the Grange Fair.”
Skelly’s Amusements returns for its 63rd year with its popular rides. Bucks County’s favorite contests also return to the Fair; and this year’s special baking contests will feature Pecan Pie and Apple Cake.
The Bucks County 4H will also host its annual County Roundup at the Fair, featuring youth projects from all over the county and a new 4H Reptile Show.
And much to the delight of children and parents, Grange Fair barns will again be bursting with farm animals, from pigs and hogs to chickens, dairy and beef cattle.
“We are expecting over 400 4H animals, plus some open-show animals,” said Dilanni. “They add so much to our event. I love to watch the livestock shows. The children work really hard with their project animals year-round, and it’s incredible to see how much they know about their animals and how much pride they take in showing.
“We have a phenomenal 4H program in Bucks County,” continued Dilanni, “and the County Roundup at the Fair proves it time and time again.”
The animals are displayed by their owners and caretakers who are more than happy to talk to fair visitors about the breeds and what goes into their care.
The 4H Alpaca and Llama Show, the 4H Rabbit and Cavy Show, the 4H Market Hog Show and the 4H Poultry Show kicks things off on Wednesday.
The 4H Dairy Judging Contest, the Stockmans Contest, the 4H Sheep Fitting and Showmanship Contest and the 4H Goat Show is Thursday. The Bucks County Holstein Show, the Sheep Breed and Market Show and the 4H Reptile Show Friday.
The weekend brings the 4H Dairy Cattle Show, the Market Hog Auction, the 4H Market Lamb/Goat Auction, an alpaca and llama demonstration and the 4H Beef Cattle Show on Saturday and the goat obstacle course and the 4H Rabbit and Cavy Parade of Breeds.
In addition, fair visitors can catch demonstrations of old time farming techniques and mule demonstrations scheduled throughout the course of the fair. And Hutch Hamilton and his team of Belgian Horses will also be there, hitching up to give fair visitors a ride.
Another big fair draw is the antique farm tractor parade, which has been expanded this year to include five chances to catch the parade, which showcases a century’s worth of tractors as they roll through the fairgrounds.
The parades, which are weather-dependent, are scheduled to roll on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 6:30 p.m. and again on Sunday at 4 p.m.
Bucks Countians may also catch a few familiar faces behind the steering wheels, including Bucks County Commissioner Rob Loughery, former Upper Makefield Supervisor Bud Baldwin and Newtown American Legion officer Skip Scarborough. Ruth Wright from Lower Makefield will also be there, riding her faithful John Deere.
Visitors who can’t make it to the parades can inspect a static display of the tractors, which can be found behind the sheep and pig barn throughout the run of the fair.
Dilanni said her favorite part of the fair is its variety of food, from its mouth-watering chicken dinner served Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 3 to 8 p.m. to its plentiful food vendors, from ice cream and water ice to hamburgers, hot dogs, corn dogs, barbecue, crepes, Kettle Korn, pork sandwiches, Philly pretzels and lots more.
“I really love to eat, so I do my best to stop at each food vendor,” she said. “I definitely enjoy the chicken dinner three nights in a row, but I try out all the food vendors for lunch!”
Dilanni said she also enjoys the “family reunion” feel of the fair, one of the elements that makes the fair special.
“This is the one time of year that I see both sides of my family over a course of five days, and I get to see so many friends who come back to town just for the Fair,” she said. “I also love hearing the stories of the way things were - our longtime volunteers always have great stories about past fairs.”
Dilanni has been involved with the fair her entire life. “I took some of my first steps at the Grange Fair! My grandparents and extended family were heavily involved in the Fair, and I followed them. My grandmother is 85 years old, and still an integral part of the Fair and the Grange organization. I’m fortunate to have grown up here, and my daughters love the Fair, so I feel blessed to pass this on to them.”
Dilanni is now a fair director overseeing the five-day celebration of agriculture.
“Quite honestly, it takes a lot of patience and teamwork,” she said. “We have a very dedicated core team of volunteers who see what needs to be done and does it. The amazing thing about this event is that our entire board is comprised of volunteers. None of us are paid to do this; we do it because we love it. Over 60,000 people come to the Fair every year, and it amazes me that we create this little town on 48 acres and we have fun doing it.”
If you go
The Middletown Grange Fair will be held August 14 to 18. Hours are 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Wednesday to Thursday, 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday.
Admittance is free to the fair. There is a fee for parking which benefits the Newtown Fire Association and the Lingohocken Fire Company. A $10 Daily Pass per vehicle allows multiple entries throughout the day it is purchased. A $30 five day pass is good for unlimited entry throughout the fair. Veterans are admitted free.
All schedules of events and exhibition information are available on the official Middletown Grange Fair website, www.middletowngrangefair.com.