Arendtsville churches are, probably more than any other
organizations, the “fathers” of the South Mountain Fair.
For a half century or more prior to 1920, the Sunday
Schools of Trinity Lutheran Church and Zion United
Church of Christ in Arendtsville had gotten together
each summer for a picnic in Heiges’ Grove, along the
Conewago Creek a mile north of town.
About 1920 it became known that Heiges’ Grove was for
sale and a group of Arendtsville men, members of the
Sunday School and churches, decided to band together to
buy the grove. This grove was purchased and named “The
Arendtsville Union Park”.
The claim was made in 1922 that the South Mountain Fair
was an outgrowth of the Farmer’s Day, which once was one
of the most popular annual events in Gettysburg. One of
the prime movers in the origin of the Fair upon his
return to the upper end of the county from a Farmer’s
Day in Gettysburg remarked: “Why can’t we have a show in
our end of the county?” An affirmative answer was
quickly forthcoming. The committee who helped organize
the Farmer’s Day proceeded with a plan to organize the
South Mountain Fair.
With the land now owned by the Sunday Schools, it became
in a sense the property of the community and when a
group of men in the upper end of the county got together
to establish the Fair, the “Arendtsville Union Park”
seemed the obvious site.
The Gettysburg Times on September 27, 1922, printed the
report of the first South Mountain Fair under the
heading “County Fair Was Big Success”. The account
“What the annual Fairs are to York and Hanover, what
Farmers’ Day is to Gettysburg, the South Mountain Fair
is destined to become to residents of the upper half of
Adams County, if indications of the first gala event
held Tuesday, can be used as a measure.
The success of the first annual exhibition at
Arendtsville Union Park was unquestioned by those in
charge of arrangements. From start to finish, the fair
was all and more than the officials of the South
Mountain Fair Association could wish.”
Tuesday was proclaimed a holiday for everybody in the
townships of Butler, Menallen and Franklin and judging
from the crowd assembled on the park grounds, residents
there took advantage of the proclamation. The crowd
during the afternoon of the first day was estimated at
The fairground was divided into two sections by the
baseball diamond. To the north of the diamond were tents
which housed the exhibits of fruits, vegetables, bread
and cakes, preserves, home canned goods, art and
needlework. To the south of the baseball field were pens
of hogs, the horses and cows, chickens and other
The speech of Mr. Fred Rasmussen, State Secretary of
Agriculture, during the afternoon attracted a large
number of listeners. He praised Adams County for its
great strides in apple production and urged
standardization of crops to secure the greatest yield
from the greatest number of acres.
The baseball game during the afternoon drew scores of
persons who lined themselves around the field to watch
Arendtsville defeat Bendersville, 4 to 3. Shoap and
Snyder were the battery for Arendtsville, while Bream
and Stahle officiated on the mound and behind the bat
Music during the afternoon was furnished by the
Loysville Orphan’s Home Band. During the evening this
band was augmented by the Mt. Joy Community Band when
both rendered selections. Moving pictures were also a
feature of the evening.
Displays of farm and orchard machinery, labor saving
devices for use by the farm-wife, and automobiles,
occupied a portion of the fairgrounds.
There was no money for premiums for the first year, but
ribbons were given for the best displays. The only cash
prizes given were for the awards for school youngsters.
All grade schools in Butler, Franklin and Menallen Twps.
and the boroughs of Arendtsville, Biglerville, and
Bendersville, were asked to enter exhibits. Each school
was asked to collect farm, orchard and garden products
and exhibit them as a unit. First prize, $15 cash,
second $10, third $5, fourth $2.50. Gettysburg National
Bank contributed the prize money for this department.
It was not until midnight that the last light on the
Arendtsville Union Park was extinguished and the first
exhibition of the South Mountain Fair came to a close.
Knouse and Mr. Frederick E. Griest
Mr. M.E. Knouse was one of the driving forces behind the
fair. Mr. Knouse in 1922, had been a storekeeper at
Brysonia for 15 years when the first fair took roots.
Mr. Frederick E. Griest was another who spurred the fair
into existence. At that time, Mr. Griest was manager of
418 acres of orchards owned by his father, A.W. Griest,
also a charter member of the Fair Association.
These men were quoted at the 50th Anniversary of the
Fair Association in 1972, as saying, “the fair was put
together on the spur of the moment because we felt it
would be good for the community.” Mr. Knouse was
president of the fair for about 40 years. The officers
of the first fair were: M.E. Knouse, President; Roy
Raffensperger, Vice President; Charles Hershey, Vice
President; Edwin A. Rice, Secretary and general manager;
Frederick E. Griest, Asst. Secretary; E. Dale Heiges,
Board of Directors were: Charles Hartman, Arthur
Roberts, W.W. Boyer, H.J. Oyler, C.A. Griest, John W.
Miller, P.S. Orner, Isaac Bucher, Harvey Knouse, and G.W.
Because the association was using the tents borrowed
from the state, it was left without housing when
Pennsylvania sold off its tents in 1924. So there were
no fairs in 1924 and 1925. By 1926 the association had
gotten together 100 guarantors who each signed notes of
$100, and with the $10,000 thus raised, constructed the
first permanent buildings which housed the fair for the
first in 1926.
The Fair once provided guides for school children. In
1926 it was reported: “Because of the educational value
of the fair as a whole, Adams County’s small army of
nearly 10,000 school children has been invited to attend
the fair on Wednesday afternoon as guests of the fair
association. Children going to the fair in groups will
find guides in attendance to conduct them through the
various buildings, explaining the educational features
and in other ways trying to make their visit pleasant.”
School children have been admitted free to the fair ever
since that day.
A big event at the South Mountain Fair in 1926 was the
horse pulling contest. Penn State specialists brought a
“dynamometer” to test the pull of the teams of mules and
horses which took part. Winners were in the heavyweight
class, the team of Oscar Rice, Biglerville; middleweight
class, Guy McBeth, Brysonia; Charles Hartman,
Biglerville in the lightweight class. Also in 1926,
probably the most unusual “feature” of the fair was the
arrangement made by Wilbur Baker, proprietor of Baker’s
Battery Service Station, Baltimore St., Gettysburg, with
officials of the fair to install a loudspeaker of
extraordinary strength to broadcast the heavyweight
championship fight of Dempsey-Tunney being fought in
Philadelphia ‘punch for punch’. The newspaper report
read “In securing this additional feature, the
entertainment committee of the fair, headed by Luther
Lady, feels that it has accomplished a stroke of rare
In 1928 besides free entertainment, rides were obtained.
A merry-go-round, ferris wheel, chairplane, shooting
gallery, “high strikers”, other devices and an ice cream
concession were added.
The fair continued year after year until 1930. On August
7 of that year, Secretary A.D. Sheely sadly announced
that because of the drought, which had extended for 35
days up to that time, there would be no fair.
Each succeeding year, however, starting in 1931, the
fair was held until 1941. Plans had been completed for
the 1941 fair, but it was called off, just a few weeks
before fair time, because of the polio epidemic at that
In 1941 it was assumed the fair would resume the next
year, but World War II intervened, and it was not until
1948 that the exposition was able to continue. At that
time new buildings were constructed with 262 guarantors
each signing notes for $100 in order to provide a basic
capital of $26,200.
When the South Mountain Fair resumed after World War II,
one of the greatest needs was an auditorium. Members of
the fair association and other residents of the upper
end of the county worked long days to construct the
building which was dedicated in 1948 as a “Living
Memorial” to the World War II men from Adams County who
died in service. It has served both the fair and all
types of activities during the intervening years which
included temporary facilities for the Fairfield Shoe
Factory and Biglerville High School commencement
exercises. Since 1948 the fair has continued annually
Additional major construction following the completion
of the Auditorium was discontinued, mainly due to lack
of sufficient funds, until 1966-67 when a large sheet ,
metal exhibit building replaced approximately four old
wooden exhibit buildings. This new exhibit building
houses the following Fair Departments: (1) Dept. 10 4-H
and Vocational; (2) Dept. 13, Vegetables; (3) Dept. 15,
Home and Dairy Products; (4) Dept. 17, Floral Exhibits;
(5) Dept. 18, Needlecraft; (6) Dept. 19, Art,
The construction of this sheet metal exhibit building
was greatly needed by the Fair Association, mainly due
to the vast increase in the yearly number of Fair
exhibitors for the many premiums offered during the
annual South Mountain Fair in September.
A disastrous wind storm inn April, 1975, ripped out
numerous trees throughtout the Fairgrounds, and
completely wrecked the electric system. The Board of
Directors promptly began advance repair plans – (1) The
decision to put in permanent electric connections
throughout the fairgrounds; a project entailing nearly
$45,000 over a five-year period, or longer, (2) The
construction of a new Commercial Exhibit Building – to
house upwards of 20 additional exhibitors.
1976 found the Adams County Beef Breeders Association
proposing to the Board of Directors of the Fair that an
additional Beef Barn be erected to alleviate the demand
for their planned exhibit capacity. The association is
now working in close cooperation with the Fair Board to
bring this new Beef Barn into being as a greatly needed
facility in the Cattle Entry Departments.
The Fair Fund Section, Bureau of Markets, Pennsylvania
Department of Agriculture, supplies requested
Pennsylvania Fair Funds in compliance with Act of the
General Assembly No. 728, approved
December 22, 1959. These funds have kept our South
Mountain Fair in yearly operation – being duly
classified as a Class “A” Fair.
Thus through this chain of events the Sunday School
Picnics have evolved into one of Adams County’s finest