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South Mountain Fair continues
 an American tradition

Richard Fulton
Emmitsburg News-Journal

(9/1) The sweet aroma of cotton candy mixed with a whiff of grease laced with a little essence of manure, mixed with the throttling of tractors, the mooing of cattle and the screams of childish excitement can only mean one thing - the good old-fashion country fair is in town.

According to the International Association of Fairs and Expositions, there are more than 3,200 fairs held in North America every year, but for Adams County, the only one that really matters is the annual South Mountain Fair, which just concluded its 89th jamboree.

The South Mountain Fair provides a chance for children to be acknowledged for their personal efforts ranging from hobby interests to animal husbandry, for local and national merchants to show off their wares, and for community members from far and wide to come together and set aside family differences for a plate of pulled pork.

In spite of the claim that modern amenities have diminished the call for old time forms of entertainment, the numbers who attend would suggest otherwise.

According to Joanne Irvin, South Mountain Fair Association director, and Michelle Miller, treasurer, around 10,000 people attended the annual five-day event held at Arendtsville Union Park, just outside of Arendtsville.

Attendees seemed to arrive in basically four waves.

The first wave were the eaters, arriving early to experience the fair's cuisine (offered this year by more than 18 food concessions, according to SMFA Director Jim Cocklin.

The second wave were the riders, families with kids, to partake of more than a dozen rides, including the traditional Ferris wheel, bumper cars, and tilt-a-whirl.

The third wave were the studious, who came to see the exhibits and the more than 48 commercial vendors.

The final wave were the entertainment set, who arrived to enjoy the bands and other lively presentations.

Several new offerings this year included the wool fleece exhibit, the poultry exhibit, a fainting goat show, and a 4H and Future Farmers of America rabbit competition, according to Miller. Poultry exhibits around the country suffered tremendously when the birds were devastated with avian flu. The South Mountain Fair is one of the few that have re-introduced the exhibits.

The South Mountain Fair was essentially founded in 1922 by two Arendtsville churches, the Sunday Schools of Trinity Lutheran Church and the Zion United Church of Christ after purchasing Heiges' Grove in 1920 and renaming the site Arendtsville Union Park (after a short stint of it having been referred to as The Conewago Union Park).

The fair was officially kicked-off in 1922, and continued on annually until 1930, when it was cancelled that year because of a drought. The annual event picked-up again in 1931 and continued until 1941, when it was again cancelled, this time due to a polio epidemic, then World War II, according to the SMFA. The fair was resumed in 1948.

In spite of the intervention of occasional crises, the fair remains one of the highlights of Adams County festivities, while the 120-page guide to the event, produced by the association, testifies to its continued popularity among the thousands.

For additional information on the South Mountain Fair, visit the association's web site at southmountainfair.com.

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