Westmoreland Fair brings rides, revelry and rabbit agility
It’s easy to tell that Alan Lipscomb works outdoors.
Lipscomb’s face glowed with the deep pink of a fading sunburn Thursday morning as he cleaned the lead car of the Dragon Wagon children’s roller coaster on the grounds of the Westmoreland Fair, which opens Friday and runs through Aug. 24.
Lipscomb was among a small group of ride operators and vendors at the fairgrounds Thursday morning, prepping for a week of food, fun and farm animals.
“With a four-person team, we can put this ride up in about 45 minutes,” Lipscomb said. “It’s even quicker tearing it down, because you don’t have to worry about where everything goes. You just pull it off.”
Lipscomb and other fair participants are expecting to see about 65,000 people over the next seven days — the average yearly attendance, according to fair secretary Sarah Sphon.
“We are, unfortunately, at the mercy of Mother Nature, so weather has a lot to do with annual attendance,” Sphon said. “Last year, we had three days with a heavy downpour but managed to have 60,000 people come through the gates.”
Someone has to feed all those people, and there is no lack of booths up to the task.
That includes the Mt. Pleasant Lions Club, whose members have operated a food stand at the fair for more than a half-century, according to club Secretary Ed Ungvarsky of Norvelt.
“We start getting ready in mid-July,” Ungvarsky said. “Our members come in to get everything cleaned up. Then members and community volunteers help us out.”
Ungvarsky even had a crew of Lions Club members on hand Thursday morning selling breakfast sandwiches and coffee to the folks setting up their booths.
Once the fair starts, the stand runs four shifts per day, getting some help from students at Mt. Pleasant Area High School.
“Various groups of about nine kids come and work the booth,” Ungvarsky said. “We have athletes, band members, National Honor Society, and every group gets paid $300 a day, so they also make some money for their clubs.”
Profits from food sales help the Lions donate up to $30,000 per year to community groups like the Westmoreland County Blind Association, 4-H and an organization that provides leader dogs for the blind.
Someone also has to entertain all those people, and when they’re not on the Dragon Wagon or grabbing a hot dog from the Lions Club, they are attending events like the popular rabbit agility competition, where bunnies will be judged on their performance and speed in a straight-line obstacle course. This year’s competition will be held at 7 p.m. Aug. 21 at the Excela Health Show Arena.
Michelle Forry, one of the rabbit agility superintendents, said the competition — which was moved to a prime-time slot last year because of its popularity — gives young people more to do than just exhibit their rabbits.
“When I started in 4-H, you brought your rabbit, there was the rabbit show on Sunday and then your week was done,” Forry said. “What this has allowed is for these kids to do more. You don’t have to have a rabbit that will win on the show table to have a rabbit that’ll win in hopping.”
It’s not just a county fair thing, either. Westmoreland County Rabbit Club Youth Show secretary Krista Skovira made it through the state level and placed last year at the national competition.
The Westmoreland Fair runs Aug. 16-24 at the fairgrounds, 123 Blue Ribbon Lane in Mt. Pleasant Township. For more, see www.WestmorelandFair.com.
Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Patrick at 724-850-2862, [email protected] or via Twitter .