Scottish Highlander cows and 4-H rabbits. 

“Mutton busting” and tractor pulls. 

Giant pumpkins and award-winning barley. 

Top-name and trying-to-make-a-name entertainers. 

Frozen bananas, Caribbean jerk chicken, donut burgers, The Bacon Bomb sandwich, pickles on a stick and so much more … it’s fair time.

The 164th Bloomsburg Fair begins Friday with its Preview Day then opens in earnest from Saturday through Sept. 28.

New this year is Fair Queen Nicolette Cusate, of Danville.

“This is the very first year in all the years that we’ve ever had a fair queen,” said Delores Wright, director of media publicity and news for the fair. “The fair queen, along with the members of her court (Sheryl Davison and Brittany Bennett), should be on the fairgrounds almost every day.”

Cusate, a Columbia-Montour Vo-Tech graduate, is attending Penn State in Erie and will present awards throughout fair week and participate in the pumpkin decorating contest.

Also adding a fun vibe to the fair are new events like karaoke, wineries and grape stomping.

On Friday, fair board president Paul Reichart will square off against former fair board president Fred Trump to determine who is better at stomping the liquid out of juicy grapes.

Reichart said he has absolutely no experience with grape stomping but is looking forward to making a splash at the fair.

“I’ll have a costume of some kind on,” he said. “We just want people to come to the fair. It’ll be funny.”

Grape stomping will take place every day outside the Martz Technology Building at 3 p.m. with various celebrity stompers.

“We’re going to have music,” Wright said. “It’s going to be a fun event.”

Four new wineries will be available in the Martz Technology/Farm Museum Building. They are Boyd’s Cardinal Hollow Winery, from Lansdale; Red Shale Ridge Vineyards, of Hegins; Three Dogs Vino, of Bloomsburg, and Benigna’s Creek Vineyard & Winery, of Klingerstown.

At Millennium Park, people can get the rock star feeling with the fair’s new karaoke setup featuring 22 microphones, concert quality audio, professional stage lighting and large video monitors. Step up and try out your pipes.

“It can be one person, it can be a group of people,” Wright said.

“It’s going to be great,” Reichart said.

 

On the grandstand

This year’s top name entertainers include Amy Grant, the Oak Ridge Boys, Cheap Trip, Loverboy, Toby Keith and Foreigner.

Founded in 1976 by Songwriters Hall of Fame member Mick Jones, Foreigner’s debut album produced the hits “Feels Like the First Time,” “Cold As Ice” and “Long, Long Way From Home.” Jones eventually reformed the band, bringing on keyboardist Michael Bluestein in 2008.

“It’s pretty amazing. Surreal is the word that comes to mind,” Bluestein said when asked what it’s like to play with a band whose music he listened to growing up. “The first time playing ‘Juke Box Hero,’ the stage gets dark, we’re singing those iconic lyrics, ‘standing in the rain’ … it’s almost an out-of-body experience. It was surreal and amazing.”

Seeing audience members respond to their favorite Foreigner songs propels the band forward throughout the show.

“It sort of feeds that nostalgia that everyone is experiencing,” Bluestein said. “That gives us energy back, and around it goes. That’s where the magic is, really.”

In a rare collaboration, the Bloomsburg High School Choir, led by director Tim Latsha, will perform with Foreigner on the band’s classic hit “I Want To Know What Love Is,” said John Lappen, advanced tour press for Foreigner. The band will donate $500 to Bloomsburg’s choir, and the choir will sell Foreigner CDs at the concert to raise money for Foreigner’s charity partner, The Grammy Foundation. 

“Both Foreigner and The Grammy Foundation are intent upon helping to keep music education available to students as part of the core curriculum in high schools throughout North America,” Lappen said. “The entire proceeds of the choir’s CD sales from this show are contributed to this initiative.”

 

An annual reunion

Reichart compared the Fair to a reunion, where people from local areas and far distances look forward to seeing each other each year. Caroline Flemming, of Reading, tries to attend each day during the week and appreciates running into people she hasn’t seen for a while.

“Bloomsburg Fair is a tradition,” Flemming said. “The sights, sounds and smells bring back memories of past fairs with family and friends.”

She enjoys “all the shows, free and otherwise and the traveling entertainment” and can’t resist the coin toss, goldfish toss, candy game, exhibits and animals.

Linda Zakrzewski, of Shamokin, is sad if she misses the fair.

“I love the tradition of going through the buildings to see the giant pumpkins, and pitching the dimes, and especially doing it with my family,” she said.

She is rare in that she doesn’t care at all about “fair food,” something Reichart said is one of Bloomsburg Fair’s big draws. Flemming looks forward to “heart attack fries,” apple dumplings, peach dumplings, Grotto pizza, bean soup and Italian ice cream. She lamented the loss of Betty & Linda’s Blueberry Muffins and raved about Bourbon coffee.

Like many others, she is looking forward to the 2019 fair.

“The midway at night is just beautiful. The Bloomsburg Fair, there’s so much to love, nothing to hate,” Flemming said. “Well, walking out the last night is a bit a sad. But you always hold the hope of attending the following year.”

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