County fair shows attendees where their food comes from

Chris Metz, of Double M Amusements, makes cotton candy while Shirley and Ashley Minium watch in background during the Northumberland County Fair on Wednesday.

The “biggest little fair in Pennsylvania” is celebrating the completion of its second full decade of providing the area with a plethora of agricultural exhibitions and quality entertainment.

The 20th annual Northumberland County Fair began on Wednesday and will continue through Saturday at Tall Cedars Grove.

Mary Anne Troutman, volunteer and board member, said the fair is best described as “family friendly”, with music, events, exhibits and food for all ages to enjoy. Each summer, its offerings continue to improve and grow.

“Every year we learn something new, make adjustments the following year, and we are always adding new event items,” Troutman said. Her first year volunteering, three years ago, coincided with the first year of the Mutton Bustin’, which has especially seen a growth in popularity. First starting with 10 children involved in the event, last year they were forced to cut off the participants at 25.

“The kids love it, and they bring their extended families to see the fun,” Troutman said.

The fair strongly emphasizes agriculture, from tractor pulls to animal exhibits and shows, and even a Farmer’s Triathlon that includes pedal tractor pulls and bale throwing and bale stacking contests. Wednesday, the first day of the fair, was Farmer’s Day, which included the fifth year of garden tractor pulls, and the judging of fruit, flowers and vegetable exhibits, as well as baking contest entries. Animal shows will continue through Saturday.

“We are in the heart of an agricultural area,” Troutman said. “It’s very important for us to remember where our food comes from, and how to care for the earth so that it keeps producing our food.”

The fair also boasts plenty of entertainment on its stage each day. New this year will be the Donald Benjamin Band at 7:30 p.m. Friday. Benjamin is a Country Music Association artist and 20-time award-winning singer and songwriter. He is touring nationally, promoting his current radio single, “I Choose the Whiskey.” The song hit No. 1 on Florida Country Radio and No. 19 on Nashville’s New Artist Chart.

Benjamin grew up in a small town in Michigan. His dad was a blue-collar autoworker, and his mom worked at a hospital. He said his life revolved around sports, the outdoors, and music.

“My dream was, always, to be on stage, performing,” he said. “Even when I was told that, having Tourette Syndrome, I’d never ‘make it’. I never let it stop my drive towards the goal. In fact, it made me more determined to succeed.”

He has succeeded, and he is loving the journey.

“The whole process of writing, arranging, trying out and seeing how people receive the new music has been great,” he said.

He especially looks forward to performing at fairs.

“Each one is different as far as size and scope,” he said. “But on the flip side, each one is an opportunity to meet people, see their hometowns and to spend time enjoying the things they enjoy. It’s truly a fantastic thing to be able to connect with people all over the U.S., on a personal level, and celebrate country music with them and their families.”

In addition to their radio singles, Benjamin said they will also be singing some new music, as well as favorite covers of old and new country, classic southern rock, blues, “and even a few pop surprises — with our little spin on them.”

Today is Senior Citizens Day at the fair, which will open at 3 p.m. Featured music will be Kimbo and Bryan from 5 to 7 p.m., and MidLife Cowboys from 7 to 9 p.m. The day will also include a Mutton Busting event at 7 p.m., and the judging of exhibits.

Friday will be Kids Day. The fair will again open at 3 p.m. and will feature Jim McClincy, “The Singing Mailman,” from 5 to 6 p.m., a Beef Cattle Show at 5 p.m., a Pet Costume Contest and Parade at 6:30 p.m. (registration at 6 p.m.), and pedal tractor pulls – part of the Farmer’s Triathlon – will begin at 7 p.m.

Visitors can enter for door prizes and 50/50 drawings, and a Farm Animal Educational Exhibit will be open to the public today and Friday.

Saturday is Family Day at the fair, which will open at 9 a.m. and will include a horse show and sheep and market goat shows beginning at 9 a.m. Frank Wicher and Chris Trasatti will perform from 11 a.m. to noon. Rabbit and guinea pig shows will begin at noon, and the ADGA sanctioned Dairy Goat Show will begin at 1 p.m., followed by the Adult Showmanship. Bonnie and Mason Wicher will perform at 1 p.m., and Grand Junction will perform from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. The Farmer’s Triathlon will continue at 5 p.m. with the bale throwing and stacking contests, and a pedal tractor pull will be held at 6 p.m. KJ Reimensnyder-Wagner will perform from 6 to 7 p.m., and Nate Myers and The Aces will perform from 7 to 9 p.m.

The fair will close on Saturday night with a Fantastic Fireworks Display around 9 p.m.

Troutman said they see growth in participants, concessions and vendors, as well as attendees, each year. So far in the fair’s history, they already outgrew their former space at the Sunbury Armory, and they are on the verge of outgrowing their current space. She said they have a dream of obtaining their own fairgrounds in the future.

They are always looking for sponsors to keep the fair growing strong, and as they plan each year, they “pray for low humidity and not too much rain,” Troutman said, as well as “that everyone who attends has a wonderful time, and tells their friends and family and comes back again next year.”

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