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Westmoreland

Westmoreland Fair maintains dwindling ties between farmers, public

Stephen Huba
| Monday, July 16, 2018, 4:45 p.m.
Westmoreland Fair entry secretary Joann Logan (left) and superintendent Connie Blystone face off as “apple pie” and “chocolate cake” on Monday while announcing the Cake and Pie Showdown at the upcoming 2018 fair.
Westmoreland Fair entry secretary Joann Logan (left) and superintendent Connie Blystone face off as “apple pie” and “chocolate cake” on Monday while announcing the Cake and Pie Showdown at the upcoming 2018 fair.

The county fair is quickly becoming one of the last points of contact that Americans have with farms and farmers, organizers of the Westmoreland Fair said.

“Less than 2 percent of the American population is in farming,” Craig Lash, fair president, said Monday. “We’ve ‘efficiencied’ ourselves out of business.”

Lash, who operates a dairy farm in Sewickley Township, said that fact of life makes county fairs in Westmoreland and elsewhere even more important.

The 64 th annual Westmoreland Fair runs Aug. 17-25 at the Westmoreland Fairgrounds, Mt. Pleasant Township. This year’s theme is “Farms, Families, Fairs, Fun.”

Fairgoers this year will be treated to several new attractions and events, including Charm City Helicopter rides, the Homemade Chocolate Cake and Blue-Ribbon Apple Pie Showdown on Aug. 18 and a first-ever Westmoreland Fair King contest to supplement the annual fair queen contest.

“Every year, we try to come up with something new or something different,” Lash said.

In addition to the usual crowd-pleasers – monster truck races, demolition derby and tractor pulls – the fair will include music by Dan & Galla, the Bar C Ranch petting zoo and camel rides, the Marvelous Mutts, livestock judging, milking parlor demonstrations and several new 4-H Building activities, he said.

Lash noted that the $7 admission has not changed in at least 15 years. Grandstand events are not included.

“I don’t know where anybody can go for $7 and get the entertainment that you get at this fair,” he said. “I don’t know how you can beat the cost of getting in here.”

The mission of the Westmoreland Agricultural Fair Association is to provide not only entertainment but also education on Pennsylvania’s largest industry, said Michelle Long, fair secretary.

“So much of the general public has lost touch with how agriculture is tied into our society and how much we depend on farmers and agriculture,” Long said. “Agriculture is weaved through our daily lives and is taken for granted to the point where farmers and family farms are becoming extinct, and people don’t seem to care – nor do they seem to notice how their lives would be affected.”

Lash noted especially the hardships faced by dairy farmers, who are getting paid the same amount for their milk that they were in the 1970s.

Lash got emotional describing the support he received from the Westmoreland Fair community last year when his wife, Eleanor, shattered her ankle the day after the fair ended. He said fair board members and volunteers helped him milk his 50 cows while his wife recovered from surgery.

“The fair is family. You talk about a good organization – if you need anything, this is the place to be,” he said.

The fair board plans to use money from this year’s event as a springboard to launch a capital campaign. The board needs to raise $750,000 to replace the five aging barns that house horses, llamas, beef steer and dairy cows during fair week. A campaign kickoff, including drawings of the new barns, is scheduled for Aug. 17 at the fairgrounds, Lash said.

“We have to keep the place up,” he said. “We need to keep making improvements.”

The fair opens at 4 p.m. Aug. 17. Gates open at 10 a.m. the remaining days.

The $7 admission includes parking, amusement rides and all commercial and agricultural exhibits. Early bird admission for those arriving before 2 p.m. is $3 person, not including rides.

Stephen Huba is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Stephen at 724-850-1280, shuba@tribweb.com or via Twitter @shuba_trib.

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