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From Bret Michaels to big rigs to animals, Big Butler Fair's 159th version has it all

| Wednesday, June 25, 2014, 11:13 p.m.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
Rebecca Claycomb (right), 15, laughs as she rides the Fire Ball with her brother Derek Claycomb, 18, both of Grove City, during the Big Butler Fair at the Butler County Fairgrounds in Prospect as dusk falls on Sunday, June 30, 2013.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
A girl walks a horse by the decorated Renfew Riders 4-H Club stables during the Big Butler Fair at the Butler County Fairgrounds in Prospect on Sunday, June 30, 2013.
Getty Images for The D Las Vegas
LAS VEGAS - OCTOBER 13: Singer Bret Michaels performs at the grand opening of The D Las Vegas celebration at the Fremont Street Experience on October 13, 2012 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Isaac Brekken/Getty Images for The D Las Vegas)
Joe Diffie
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
Riders on the Tilt-A-Whirl hold tight as the sun sets on the Big Butler Fair at the Butler County Fairgrounds in Prospect on Sunday, June 30, 2013. The fair predates the Civil War and is one of the three largest fairs in Pennsylvania.

For some, the biggest draws to the Big Butler Fair are the carnival rides or the big-name acts that perform each year, but vice president Ben Roenigk acknowledges the importance of one of the fair's staple attractions: the animals.

“Without the animals, we'd just be a big carnival,” he says.

Roenigk, whose favorite events are the horse pulls July 4, says this year's fair will feature several new animal-focused programs sure to educate and entertain.

In addition to the annual animal judging, daily attractions like the Gator Boys from Animal Planet and kids show Agricadabra will give visitors the chance to engage with animals directly. There also will be a petting zoo open every day and camel rides — a new offering this year.

All traditional grandstand events will be back for the fair's 159th year as well.

Everything kicks off June 27 with Annual Bike Night — motorcyclists can ride their bikes through the West Gate and park right on the track for $5. Pittsburgh rockers The Clarks will perform at 7 that night.

Event highlights June 28 include the Antique Tractor Pull at 1 p.m., the 4x4 & Diesel Truck Pull at 2 p.m., the “Smoker Series” Tractor Pull at 7 p.m. and the Swing Your Partner Square Dance at 8 p.m.

The School Bus Demolition Derby on June 29, always a big hit according to Roenigk, will begin at 7 p.m. The metal crushing continues with the Giant Auto Demolition Derby at 7 p.m. June 30. Four-wheel drive, big-rig and semi-truck pulls will take place at 7 p.m. July 1 and 3.

Big Butler fairgoers will welcome home Bret Michaels, a Butler native, for Bret Michaels' Day on July 2. Michaels will give a free concert at 7 p.m.; motorcyclists can enjoy another bike night.

“We've had some great ones, but this might be the biggest night we've ever had,” Roenigk says. “(Michaels) has helped promote it, too. He's excited.”

Fourth of July celebrations include the Freestyle Motocross Cycle Show at 8 p.m. and the explosive Shively Fireworks show beginning at dusk.

The annual Y108 Freedom Fest starring country artist Joe Diffie will close the fair July 5. Diffie is known for his ballads and No. 1 singles like “Home,” “If the Devil Danced (in Empty Pockets)” and “Third Rock From the Sun.” He also has co-written and recorded with artists like Tim McGraw, Mary Chapin Carpenter and George Jones.

Singer-songwriter Charee White of Worthington, Armstrong County, will open the Freedom Fest. Visitors are encouraged to participate in Jeep Night, new to the fair, which operates the same as bike night. Gates open at 6 p.m.

Emma Deihle is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-8513 or edeihle@tribweb.com.

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