Harvesting tradition

70th annual Middletown Grange Fair is set for Aug. 15–19

By Samantha Bambino

The Times

Ready to ride: The 70th annual Middletown Grange Fair will take place Aug. 15–19. New activities this year include Tractor Games, which will take place in the Tractor Games Arena, as well as Tractor Parades. Source: Middletown Grange Fair

Nothing beats some good old fashioned fun. Five days of it, to be exact.

From Aug. 15–19, scores of animals, vegetables, art displays, musical acts and more will converge in Wrightstown for the annual Middletown Grange Fair. Now in its 70th year, this popular local tradition unites multiple generations in a nearly week-long celebration of Bucks County’s historic farming culture.

Ahead of the upcoming festivities, The Times caught up with Fair board member Deb Gregory, who shared details on what guests can look forward to. Even for those who have been attending the event for multiple decades, Gregory promised several exciting additions to keep them on their toes.

“It’s a tough balance between keeping everyone’s favorites and adding new things to the Fair. But this year, we are switching it up,” she said.

New activities for 2018 include a Wildlife/Science Pavilion, which will feature shows and hands-on opportunities with various wildlife, insects and butterflies; a presentation on space science by the Johnsville Centrifuge & Science Museum; and a Reptile Show hosted by the 4-H Club. In the Tractor Games Arena, Tractor Games will take place, as well as Tractor Parades every day of the Fair. Additionally, a new Vendor Barn will keep vendors and visitors safe and dry if the weather turns wet.

In the midst of introducing these modern features, the Middletown Grange Fair is holding fast to the staples its guests have come to know and love over the years. After the ceremonial opening at 10 a.m. by the flagpole on Wednesday, Aug. 15, individuals and families can enjoy a multitude of 4-H shows featuring rabbits, poultry, alpacas and llamas, a mule demonstration at the Equine Barn, a meet-and-greet with Belgian Draft Horses, and an “Ask a Master Gardener” booth.

Thursday’s activities include a 4-H Sheep Fitting/Showmanship Contest, a 4-H “Speaks Out” Public Speaking Contest and horse-drawn wagon rides. The Bucks County Holstein Show will be a highlight on Friday, while a number of auctions, including market hog, lamb and goat, will be ongoing throughout Saturday. Favorite events, including the horse drawn wagon rides, a goat obstacle course and the Rabbit & Cavy Parade of Breeds, will close out the Fair on Sunday.

According to Gregory, a variety of entertainment acts both new and old will take the stage during the Middletown Grange Fair.

“Josh Squared Band is playing Wednesday evening and the Amish Outlaws on Thursday evening,” she said of the first-time Fair performers. “Georgette Jones, daughter of Tammy Wynette and George Jones, will be singing with the Cramer Brothers Band on Saturday evening.”

Additional entertainment is slated to include several Hot Dog Pig Races, Belmont Magic & Illusions, Johnny Peers & Muttville Comix, a Tinsmithing Show, Rick K. & The Allnighters, the 4-H Green Carpet Runway, and Cow Chip Poker.

On Wednesday, Aug. 15 at 10 a.m., during the County Commissioners’ meeting at the Entertainment Tent, the Middletown Grange Fair Queen will be crowned and awarded a $500 scholarship. Also taking place at the tent on Saturday, Aug. 18, at 2 p.m. will be the 31st annual Talent Show.

The Fair remains the largest event hosted by the Middletown Grange, a nonpartisan fraternal organization with strong roots in agriculture. Originally, only farmers were members of the Grange. Today, it encompasses people from all walks of life with a common goal of making the world a better place to live.

Like the Grange itself, the Fair has evolved over the years. The event began in 1948 as a project of Middletown Grange to participate in a national contest sponsored by Farm Journal Magazine. The goal was to raise 300 bushels of corn to an acre. The corn was planted on Heston Manor Farm near Yardley, and the public was invited to attend and participate in the harvest. Simultaneously, guests could enjoy exhibits of farm machinery, supplies and household goods.

In 1949, the Grange incorporated a produce competition and cattle show into the event, and by 1950, 60 exhibitors participated in the Fair, which drew more than 5,000 people. The early 1950s welcomed high school bands, television personalities and 4-H activities, and the famous chicken dinners were introduced in 1954 when the Fair was extended to a three-day event. The Horse Show was added in 1965, quickly becoming a favorite annual tradition, and in 1967, the Fair was moved to a newly purchased tract of land in Wrightstown, which became its permanent location.

The following decades saw a plethora of flower, vegetable and art exhibits incorporated into the Fair, as well as the building of a judging arena in 1991, which today sees more than 5,000 items ranging from cows to quilts. In 1993, the Fair was recognized for quality excellence by the Pennsylvania State Association of County Fairs and in 1997, was extended from a three-day to a five-day event.

“I think the reason the Fair has been so popular for 70 years is because it brings families together for some good, old-fashioned fun,” Gregory said. “It’s become a tradition in our area.” ••

If you go…

The 70th annual Middletown Grange Fair will take place Aug. 15–19 at 576 Penns Park Road in Wrightstown. Hours are 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday. Admittance is free.

A daily parking pass costs $10 per day, per vehicle, and allows multiple entries throughout the day it is purchased. A five-day pass is $30 and is good for unlimited entry throughout the fair. For a full schedule, visit middletowngrangefair.org/schedule.html.

Samantha Bambino can be reached at sbambino@newspapermediagroup.com