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The following was written by David M. McCleaf in 1997. It is an early history of the Fair up through 1997.


Heiges’ Grove

For more than half a century preceding 1920, two churches located in Arendtsville, Pennsylvania had gotten together each summer for their annual picnic at what was called “Heiges’ Grove”. This piece of land was ideal for their Sunday School picnics for a number of reasons. It was so beautiful, because it was practically surrounded by mountains with large mature forests which showed their colors throughout the seasons, the very large Hemlocks at this grove supplied plenty of shade from the afternoon sun, it was just one mile outside of town and rested right along side the Great Conewago Creek, there was a large open area where afternoon contests and baseball games were played, and this land was very accessible. This picnic area was owned by Aaron M. and Annie E. Heiges. They had four children whose names were Harry, Ray, Mary, and Rosie. They purchased this land in two small parcels. Six acres and five perches were bought in 1886 from the Abram Fisher estate. In 1915 they purchased another two acres and one hundred perches from David and Sarah Koser. On June 10, 1921 Aaron Heiges died. His wife Annie, then moved to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania where her two sons lived. Heiges’ Grove was put up for sale shortly after. Many were not only saddened, but they were also afraid someone would buy the property and forbid the churches to use the grove. So in that same year a group of men, members of the Trinity Lutheran Church and the Zion Evangelical and Reformed Church in Arendtsville banded together to purchase the land.

On April 1, 1922, members of the churches bought the land called Heiges’ Grove for one thousand dollars, and the “Lutheran and Reformed Union Association” was formed. This association was headed by two very distinguished gentlemen in the community, Mr. M.E. Knouse, a storekeeper in the nearby town of Brysonia, and Mr. P.S. Orner, an apple barrel factory owner and fruit grower. These two men were trustees for the association. At this time the land known as Heiges’ Grove would have a new title. It became “The Conewago Union Park”.

The Conewago Union Park

From the beginning, this park was viewed as a community park, belonging to all area residents. The annual Sunday School picnics continued and the association urged anyone living within the area to use the park for family unions or any other social functions. Even though the park only consisted of a little over eight acres, it played a vital role in bringing many people in the South Mountain area closer together. Through community effort, largely by volunteer labor, it was made into a beautiful park. Increased area in the pine groves was cleared to accommodate the placing of picnic tables. A large open air auditorium and shelter house was built, along with moveable tables and benches reaching 400 feet in length. A new well was dug. The grading of the playing field was done to provide for a first class ball diamond, and the construction of a swimming pool in the Conewago Creek, which flows along side the park. Along with the Arendtsville Sunday Schools there were other Sunday Schools who used the park. Biglerville churches, Benders Reform Church, and the Gettysburg Christ Lutheran Church also used the park to hold their Sunday School picnics. The park was a meeting place for many annual reunion picnics for the area as well.

A Growing Community

In the 1920’s Adams County was growing. The farm land in the northern part of the county had a soil called Arendtsville Loam. This soil was rich in minerals and had a sandy texture ideally suited for growing some of the finest crops in the State. Along with many types of vegetables there were a lot of fruits. In 1913 Adams County ranked 16th in apple production, but in 1922 it was on the top of the list in Pennsylvania. Many farm animals were raised because the soil was highly suitable for growing feed crops. In 1920 Adams County had more chickens per farm, 131, than any other county in the State. Over 2 million dozen eggs were produced in the county in 1921. Because of all this farm production, businesses catering to the farming industry were prospering also. The county was thriving because of its’ good soils and good people.

The First Fair

In 1922 members of the Lutheran and Reformed Association felt their community needed something to promote the area’s strength in agriculture. So they planned to have a community fair at the Conewago Union Park. A booklet was produced to explain their intent and was sent to all area residents. In the front of this booklet it explained:

The community fair is becoming more and more popular from year to year, and in looking for a reason for this, we find that the communities in which such fairs are being held take pride in the crops and stock which they are producing, and that they wish to show their neighbors and to the county at large that they are producing materials of as high an order as is possible for like sections to produce.

The organizers of this fair believe that in Adams County at least, and probably in the State of Pennsylvania, there is no other community which produces so high a quality of farm products as is produced in the South Mountain section, and in accord with this belief the South Mountain Fair is being established for the sole purpose of showing to the members of this community, and especially to the visitors from other sections of our county and State, that we believe we have a quality and variety of farm product in this community that is hard to surpass.

In order to make this fair a success the residents of this section should take a personal interest in the preparation for the fair and the carrying out of the plans of the management. It is hoped that many of our residents will place on exhibition those farm products which possess a marked degree of merit.

It’s the wish of the directors of the fair association that the residents and the places of business within the bounds of our community will declare holiday and make September 26 a real get-together. The management needs your help. Come, let us show our loyalty to our community and our belief and pride in our occupation by making this day September 26 the biggest and best day in the history of this section.

This booklet also contained exhibitor departments and the classes for entries. It also contained advertisements. These advertisements were very helpful towards financing the Fair.

The first fair was held on Tuesday, September 26, 1922 and it was a success. No enclosed buildings were at the park at this time so tents were brought in from the National Guard with the permission from the State Adjutant General’s office. The host speaker was the Pennsylvania Secretary of Agriculture, Fred Rasmussen. More than 400 exhibits were entered and the park was fully wired and illuminated for the event. A baseball game was played during the day between Arendtsville and Bendersville and Arendtsville took home the win with the score ending four to three. There were only eight main exhibitor departments consisting of horses and mules, dairy cattle, swine, poultry, grains and grasses, vegetables, fruits, and home economics. School exhibits were accepted from any grade school in Butler, Franklin, or Menallen townships, and also the grades of the boroughs of Arendtsville, Biglerville, and Bendersville. The fair only lasted one day and that day was declared a holiday for everyone in the surrounding townships. The success of the first annual South Mountain Fair was without a doubt unquestionable from start to finish. The crowd was estimated at 2,000 that day. Little did all the people who made the first fair a success know how it would become a tradition in the community for years to come.

The Arendtsville Union Park

After the first fair members of the Lutheran and Reformed Union Association decided to change the park’s name. Because the park was purchased by members of the two churches in Arendtsville they decided to rename the park “The Arendtsville Union Park”. They also formed “The Arendtsville Union Park Association” to manage the park.

On December 1, 1923 the Arendtsville Union Park grew a little larger. Members of the association purchased another three acres and one hundred fifty nine perches of land from J. Cameron Thomas and his wife. The agreed upon purchase price of this land was nine hundred dollars. The park had grown to twelve acres and one hundred four perches of land.

The Second Annual Fair

The second South Mountain Fair was held for two days, Tuesday, September 25 and Wednesday, September 26, 1923. It was financed in the same manner as the first. The funds collected from the parking privilege, the sale of ice cream, the sale of lunches and soft drinks, space rented to exhibitors of machinery, autos, and etc., and the advertising space sold in the premium booklet were used to pay for all operating expenses. During the first fair there were not enough refreshments due to the larger than expected attendance. Plenty of drinks were on hand for the second fair. By purchasing additional land adjoining the park, ample and convenient parking was assured. There were 225 hogs, 22 horses, 60 dairy cattle, 525 poultry fowl, and 200 exhibits of apples at the second annual South Mountain Fair. R.H. Rupp, a Brysonia farmer and former Adams County Commissioner, was the first exhibitor who was willing to spend money to show his superior products. He built his own exhibition building in 1923, the first permanent structure on the fairgrounds. It housed over 1,500 items produced on his farm and in his wife’s kitchen. There were grains and grasses, fruits, vegetables, poultry products, baked goods, crafts, rugs, quilts, and other items.

In 1924 the fair association was dealt a crushing blow. The canvas tents the fair used to house the exhibits were sold by the Adjutant General’s Office at a public sale. The tents were no longer needed by the National Guard after a permanent facility was established at Fort Indiantown Gap. Without the tents there was no place for inside exhibitors. With little monies for purchasing buildings the fair board was forced to cancel the fair. The following year’s fair had to be canceled also because of the lack of any shelters. The fair was a part of the past and seemed to be doomed.

Many of those who lived in the community were upset over the cancellation of the 1924 and 1925 fairs. So a group of men, headed by M.E. Knouse, made plans to erect permanent buildings at the park. Since there were very little funds available for construction these men decided to form a corporation for the purpose of borrowing the monies needed. The South Mountain Fair Association Corporation was formed, and then one hundred ‘guarantors’ were found to sign notes for $100 earch, and with the $10,000 thus raised, the association constructed the first permanent buildings at the park. There were sixteen buildings constructed in 1926 to house the exhibits.

The Fair Continues

In 1926 the fair was expanded to three days. One of the biggest events that year was the horse pulling contest. The ‘dynamometer’ was brought in from Penn State University. This device tested the amount of pull a team of horses or mules could handle over a distance. Winners for that year were Oscar Rice of Biglerville, Guy McBeth from Brysonia, and Charles Hartman from Biglerville. Because one of the biggest sports at that time was boxing, arrangements were made with Wilber Baker, the owner of Baker’s Battery Service Station, Baltimore Street, Gettysburg, to install a loudspeaker system to broadcast the heavyweight championship fight between Dempsey and Tunney in Philadelphia. Also in 1926 guides were provided for all Adams County school children, who were invited to attend the fair on Wednesday afternoon as guests of the fair association. This was done because of the great educational value of the fair. The three day event produced fifty six hundred dollars, but two thousand dollars of this was paid by an insurance agency when rain halted the proceedings on the last day. The profit for that year was one thousand dollars.
On April 1, 1927 the fairgrounds grew in size again. Twelve acres and eighty six perches of land were bought fom Frank Kimple and his wife Ruth, for four hundred dollars. The total acreage of the park now stood at twenty five acres and thirty perches. The first fair admission was charged. The fair board decided to charge $.50. Apparently many suggested it was too high. So before the fair opened the association reduced the admission to $.25 and sold parking space at $.25 per car.

Rides were obtained for the first time in 1928. There was a ferris wheel, a merry-go-round, a chairplane, a shooting gallery, high strikers, and other devices. There was also an ice cream concession added.

By 1929 seventeen permanent buildings were on the grounds, and there was over 20,000 square feet under roof for exhibitors. Even with all this, five large tents were needed for overflowing exhibits that year. This year marked the great crash on Wall Street but it also brought a better financial future for the South Mountain Fair. The Pennsylvania State Department of Agriculture recognized the South Mountain Fair for the first time as a state agricultural fair, and contributed funds toward exhibitor prizes. The fair was the first to feature a circus as its main attraction. This fair was the biggest up to that time. P.S. Orner was elected president of the fair board in 1929, succeeding M.E, Knouse, who had held the post since the first fair was conducted. Mr. Knouse became second vice president at that election.

Plans were made for the fair the following year. But on August 30, 1930 Mr. A.D. Sheely, then secretary, announced there would be no fair due to the severe drought that year. It lasted thirty five days and halted the growth of corn, grains and grasses, and vegetables. Since it had a direct effect on feed crops it cut the quality of livestock. Crops withered and cattle suffered to the point where their coats were dry and colorless. This prompted the livestock committee to determine that competition would be unfair. Farmers throughout the county were hauling water from any source they could find to keep their livestock alive. Dairy farmers, using flat-bed trucks and their milk cans, spent hours each day hauling water from their neighbor’s wells to their barnyards. Crops burnt up in the fields and pastures were like straw fields. Adams County as well as most of America was suffering that year.

The following year the rains came, and crops were good, and the 1931 fair was underway. The first day of the fair started with a large parade. There was a forty three car motorcade which transported over one hundred people from Gettysburg to Biglerville and then to the fairgrounds. The first rodeo, Tom Hunt’s Rodeo, came to the fairgrounds that year.

In 1932 a local girl, Lois Shirk from Gettysburg, volunteered to be buried alive under eight feet of fairground soil. Spectators watched her as she took nourishment through a tube. The 1932 fair also set a record in the number of swine shown with more than 200 exhibited. A feature of the fair was a miniature train to haul youngsters. That year 7,538 persons paid $2,634 in admissions to the five day fair.

In 1933 hurricane force winds and torrential rains ripped the county, forcing streams over their banks and putting the fairgrounds completely under water. The event was extended two days, trying to make up for losses. A wrestling match between a man and a bear was postponed day after day that year. The match never took place despite the two day extension of the fair, because the act had to move on to another engagement.

A hurricane traveled through the area in 1934, and again rain cancelled many events during the five day fair, including one of the major attractions, ‘Harry Taylor’s Rodeo’. The fair started with the biggest opening night in its history to that point and the smallest crowds thereafter due to the rains. Two extra days were added to the fair, and during those two days workmen dumped sand, gravel and stones in low spots where the mud was up to six inches deep. A most unusual exhibit at the 1934 fair was a collection of live rattlesnakes, copperheads and turtles displayed by the Arendtsville Boy Scouts. The fair saw its biggest crowd ever the first night, but all other nights brought record rainfalls. They operated at a loss for that year. Total income for that year was $2,304.58.

Good weather came in 1935. Rain ventured into the area on one occasion. The South Mountain Fair returned to making a profit. Attendance was very good.

A trapeze act performed at the 1937 fair, the first of its kind in the area. And even though it rained there were larger than expected crowds mainly due to the high wire act.

In 1938 the fair brought good entertainment and gained greatly in it’s popularity.

Rain caused a disaster again in 1939. A solid week of rain cut attendance drastically and reduced receipts to a serious point.

The 1940 fair made up for the financial losses of the previous year. The feature attraction for the year was at the animal barns, where there were a record thirty three baby beef entered by the members of the 4-H Baby Beef Club. It was one of the best fairs.

On September 28, 1940 additional land was purchased for the park from Francis A. Baker for three thousand dollars. It contained fifteen acres and one hundred seventeen perches, bringing the total acreage of the park up to forty acres and one hundred forty seven perches.

Those who attended the 1940 fair could not have even dreamed it would be eight years before another fair would be held. Preparations for the 1941 fair were all in place and final adjustments were being made, but a serious situation arose. An epidemic of polio was spreading throughout the county. So the then coroner, Dr. C.G. Crist in response to the dangerous situation that was developing, asked the fair to be cancelled. The fair officials announced there would be no fair, but promised to produce one the following year. Nobody could foresee what was going to occur near the end of that year.

On December 7, 1941 Japanese planes dropped bombs on Pearl Harbor. People were saddened, shocked, and heart broken. The United States would be engaged in one of the largest wars it ever participated in for the next four years. Things became very scarce during the war. Machinery and automobile plants were converted to make war-time products. Factories everywhere were converted to produce supplies for the military. Necessities like food, clothing, and even gasoline was rationed to people here at home. Many young men left their families, farms and the factories when they were called upon to defend the nation. Everyone was needed while our country was at war. There was little thought about a fair during the war years.

After the War Years

When the war ended and the men and women came home from the war, there was a lot of work to be done. Many things had to be postponed and were unattended to during the war. Lumber and building materials were scarce, along with many other things use to repair and fix up. And so it was not until 1948 when the area would see another fair.

During the winter in 1947 Mr. P.S. Orner called a meeting for all those who were interested in having the fair to meet with him at the Arendtsville High School. The response was gratifying. Mr. Orner and Mr. M.E. Knouse still retained a personal active interest, and everyone connected with the association worked hard and faithfully to make the fair a success. The community was glad to see the event return.

On Wednesday, September 8, 1948 the South Mountain Fair continued due to popular demand. It was a four day event. On Friday there was a minstrel show and square dancing, but the feature event was on Saturday when a horse show of gaited saddle horses and ponies were in competition.

Also in 1948, the fair association thought there was a need for an auditorium. So a group of men, headed by Mr. M.E. Knouse, secured capital by getting 262 guarantors, each signing notes for one hundred dollars. Members of the fair association and many others in the county worked closely together to construct a large building. This building was dedicated as a “Living Memorial” to all the men from the area who sacrificed their lives during World War II. It was called “Memorial Auditorium” and was the largest building of its kind in the county at this time. The auditorium was first used during the 1949 fair. The talent for the show came direct from Broadway, New York. Two complete shows each day featured five acts of Vaudeville and the music from a big name band.

The South Mountain Fair Association and the Arendtsville Union Park merged in 1949 and the two organizations became one corporation called the South Mountain Community and Fair Association. From 1922 to 1949 these two organizations were jointly interested in the park and the fair, and some of the same people made up both the Sunday schools in Arendtsville. They owned the Arendtsville Union Park which comprised the central portion of the fairgrounds and included a majority of the buildings in which the fair was held. The South Mountain Fair Association conducted the annual fair, constructed some of the buildings, and purchased the acreage surrounding the central portion of the fairgrounds.

Poultry returned to the fair in 1949, along with an enlarged horse show which included saddle horses, jumpers and ponies. Three car ticket booths were used for the first time also. These ticket booths were constructed by the Cannonball Chapter of the Young Farmers. Adult admission was $.60 to the fair, $.60 admission to the auditorium, and $.60 admission for the horse show.

The 1950 fair brought with it more improvements. An enlarged horse show ring was built to meet the requirements of the National Horse Show Association. A photography department was added and the 4-H Clubs held their annual round-up for the first time. Every day a Broadway Stage Review entertained, and the Spring Garden Band from York furnished the music. The fair lasted four days.

In 1951 the fair went to five days. Every day featured a different high school band and there were nine first class Broadway Revues during the week. Admission to the fair remained at $.60 while admission for the auditorium went to $.80.

In 1952 mountain music filled the air with the 101 Ranch Boys who presented folk, western, and mountain songs twice each day. Four hundred and six exhibits were entered for competition that year. The first day of the fair started with rain, which dampened the enthusiasm of the more than one thousand people who braved the elements. Because of the heavy rains, the fair officials decided to give any visitors to the fair free admission. Joe Lewis, heavyweight boxing champion, was a main attraction at Friday night’s event. On Saturday two great horses were honored at the horse show event. One was a horse named “Harry Todd” owned by Dr. Bruce N. Wolff. This horse was at the first ever horse show held at the fairgrounds. It died during the previous winter of a heart attack while pulling a sleigh. A bronze plaque was placed on the grandstand inscribed to “Harry Todd” as “a memorial to a faithful friend”. The second horse, Ambrose, a 25 year old horse from Russell Stables in New Cumberland, was retired from competition the last night of the fair. Total fair attendance for 1952 was estimated at 30,000. This broke the previous year’s attendance by about 1,000.

In September of 1953 farmers were looking for relief from a three week August drought that caused extensive crop damage. From all sections of the state came reports of the crying need for rain. Parched pasture lands, reduced crop yields, and stinted crop growth were concerns for farmers. In many areas the drought was called the longest in modern times. Potatoes and late planted corn suffered the most. Some dairy farmers resorted to winter feeding schedules because of scorched pasture grasses. At Sunbury, the Susquehanna River had only one and a half inches to drop before reaching the lowest water mark ever recorded. Even under these conditions the fair had done well. Irrigation practices helped to produce good exhibits, and the Broadway revues helped to boost the attendance. Thursday was named “Adams County Day”. The fair association asked everyone to attend the fair to make new friends and renew old acquaintances.

Chevrolet presented a show in 1954. The show was called “The Inside Story”, and was sponsored by Warren Chevrolet Sales, Gettysburg. The six exhibits ranged from displays of mechanical precision to units that could be operated by the spectators. The feature attraction was the driver skill-o-meter, a device which measured an individual’s safe driving ability. Persons taking the test received a wallet sized card evaluating their performance. Five other exhibits demonstrated operation and construction of Chevrolet engineering through animated and cutaway displays. The Adams County Free Library’s new bookmobile was dedicated that year at the fair. It was donated to the library by the C.H. Musselman Foundation. The poultry exhibits numbered some of the largest ever, and the good weather brought out crowds of near record attendance.

In 1955 the poultry exhibits were abandoned, and the chicken coops were torn out of the poultry house that had housed hens and roosters for years. Pens were built in the structure for animals of the 4-H youngsters, who expanded their exhibits at the fair that year. The poultry show was abandoned because of the danger of disease spreading through the flocks in the county. Even with this additional livestock building, tents were still needed for the large amount of entries in livestock. The Upper Adams Joint School System’s restaurant found themselves in a permanent structure for the first time that year. The cafeteria was conducted in tents in prior years. 1955 started a change for the work horse classes at the fair. The few such teams, and the farmers who took an interest in such animals, were growing older and fewer. The tractor which could do more work than a horse or mule, and didn’t eat when it wasn’t working, practically chased the horse off most farms. The Adams County Fire Chief’s Association had a tent to show free fire prevention films and comics for children. The Dorsey Brothers drew a capacity crowd in the auditorium for their performance on Tuesday night. The Gettysburg Region Antique Auto Club had approximately 20 antique cars on display on Wednesday that year. Because the headlamps were not up to modern standards needed to travel after dark, the old autos had to depart while there was still sufficient light to permit their return home before dusk. Attendance to the fair broke records again in 1955. Tuesday’s record crowd was 4,322, and Wednesday’s record crowd was 4,731. Thursday and Friday’s attendance dropped with 4,059 on Friday. Saturday’s crowd was good which boosted the overall attendance to an all time high.

Despite the rain on Thursday in 1956, the Black Diamond Wild West Rodeo was one of the most exciting shows ever to come to the South Mountain Fair. To meet the needs of the rodeo’s attendance, there were 1,500 seats added to the horse show arena. Adult admission to the rodeo was $1.00 and children were $.50. The Manufacturers Light and Heat Company took over half the auditorium for demonstrations, educational movies, and displays that year. They showed a motion picture made in Adams County orchards by the Appalacian Apple Service, and the gas company also presented daily cooking demonstrations. The attendance was so good a field behind the fairgrounds was used for parking. The use of the field involved taking cars through the center of the fair. The largest assortment of exhibits in the fair’s history were shown. An estimated 38,500 attended the fair. 1,000 Tuesday, 10,000 on Wednesday, 4,500 on Thursday, 12,500 on Friday, and 10,500 on Saturday.

A feature event at the 1957 fair was the 10th annual horse show. The fair officials reported it as “the best yet”. Buck Steele’s Frontier Days was another event praised by those who attended the fair. It contained a variety of novelty circus acts surrounded by 25 of America’s finest trained horses with western riders. Attendance was good with Saturday having the largest crowd, near 15,000.

The 1958 South Mountain Fair saw its biggest crowds on Friday night. A hypnotist, Joan Brandon, and seven acts of Vaudeville came to the auditorium every night that year. Admission prices for the auditorium rose to $.90. Because of the rain on the first few days attendance was below expectations.

In 1959 the Fair Fund Section of the Bureau of Markets, which was controlled by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, started to supply annual funds to state recognized fairs. The allocations were based on the total cost of operations and the total eligible premiums paid.

President Dwight Eisenhower visited the 1959 fair. His eight year old granddaughter won numerous prizes that year in horse show events. Little Miss Susan Eisenhower, daughter of Major John Eisenhower and his wife, won the red ribbon in class 13, and a first place blue ribbon and a silver tray in class 15. She rode a chestnut brown mare named “Goldie” that was owned by the President.

A big event at the 1960 South Mountain Fair was the amateur talent competition which was limited to ten acts on Wednesday, with the first and second place winners advancing to a final contest held on Saturday night. The annual horse show included 52 contestants that year with the childrens pony driving event being the favorite.

In 1961 the attendance dropped to 24,000 for the five day event. Attributing to the loss were rains, which dampened the fairgrounds on a number of occasions, the peach harvest, and a large fire at the Zeigler Brothers feed mill on Thursday evening. M.E. Knouse, president of the fair association, said the fair was still a financial success.

In 1962 dry weather caused hardships in the county. Rainfall at Arendtsville was only .47 of an inch, which was 3.65 inches below normal. It was the dryest August since the all time record searing heat of 1930. Although rainfall was low, it was a cool August, with the average temperature at 72 degrees. The Adams County 4-H Light Horse and Pony Club conducted the horse show in 1962. There were sixteen classes highlighted for the eleventh annual event.

The McKinley and Wild West Show returned to the fairgrounds in 1963. Thursday night’s presentation only drew about 200 people because of rain. So Robert McKinley, owner of the show, agreed to present an extra presentation on Friday at no cost to the fair. The rodeo was held for only two nights that year, Wednesday and Friday, and additional bleachers were secured for the event. Admissions were slightly under the cost of the show, but the fairgrounds gate admissions for those only attending the rodeo more than made up the difference. The program put on by the 4-H Light Horse and Pony Club was much better than the fair officials had hoped for. Saturday’s attendance set a new all time high for that night, and fair officials termed the 1963 fair as “one of the best ever”.

Entertainment for the opening night in 1964 was provided by the Gettysburg Civic Chorus. But the big night of the fair that year was Al Shade’s Hootenanny on Saturday. A capacity crowd filled the auditorium to see and hear the folk music artists. The weatherman cooperated throughout the week. While rain fell elsewhere in the county the fairgrounds escaped the wet weather. During the 4-H Light Horse and Pony Club contests on Saturday the attention of fairgoers was not only on the contests, but also on Senator Hugh Scott. Senator Scott, arriving by helicopter, saw the exposition under way from the air and his helicopter was landed near the horse show ring. He later presented awards to the winners. Approximately 20,000 visited the five day event.

An increase in exhibits in all departments, ideal weather, a good crowd and an upswing in public interest marked the opening day of the 1965 fair as a success. Despite a drought that year, the farm crop exhibits were excellent and just as good as the few previous years. All departments were filled that year. A 50 percent increase in the premiums awarded could have been a major factor and added more interest. 1965 was the first year the South Mountain Fair was held without any interruption by rain. Friday night was the one evening that really boosted the attendance that year, and financially the fair ended up ahead of the previous year.

1966 was the first year since the fair’s inception in 1922 for which the founder of the organization was in the “emeritus” role. M.E. Knouse, who was the first president of the South Mountain Fair, and who served as president or chairman of the board during most of the years up until 1966, resigned in March of that year and was given a life membership in the association. Mr. Knouse believed that the time had come, and he had served long enough. He contributed a lot of time and hard labor to the association for 44 years. The board was saddened over his resignation.

Plans were made in 1966 to construct a large prefabricated metal building to replace five old wooden frame buildings. These buildings were put up for sale at a public auction held during the fair. They housed the art, culinary, vegetables, needlework, and 4-H exhibits. The best night during the 1966 fair was Tuesday, opening night. An overflowing crowd jammed the auditorium to see and hear a western favorite, Tex Ritter, who was one of the biggest Nashville performers at that time. All entertainment in the auditorium was free that year, although adult admission to the fair was raised to $.75.

Rain and fog reduced the crowds at the 1967 fair, but the fair officials thought they still had one of the best fairs even though they didn’t have a record attendance. Tuesday through Friday night’s crowds were larger than usual numbers, but the rain and fog clearly foiled any chance for a good Saturday crowd. Two top shows appeared every night during the fair that year with names such as Doc Williams and Stonewall Jackson taking the stage. The biggest change at the 1967 fair was the new exhibit building. It was 30 feet wide and 228 feet long. It started from near the horse ring and continued to the building housing the flower exhibits. The fair also had a new barbecue pit and pavilion constructed jointly by the Adams County Poultry Association and the South Mountain Fair Association. Those entering the fair that year also discovered a new paved road in from the main road and past the ticket booths. The South Mountain Fair became known throughout the country in 1967 when a national magazine called “Pet Incorporated” published their lead story on the fair. The title of the story was “Meet Me At The Fair”.

Thursday night just didn’t seem to be very good during fair weeks. In 1968 that night was no different. Downpours brought the attendance down by several thousand. Saturday was the biggest night when upwards of 6,000 were at the fair. A “fun” horse show was put on by the 4-H youths which drew an attentive audience of several hundred. The Grand Ole Opry’s Stonewall Jackson returned again to head the list of those who brought smiles to the faces of the young and young at heart.

Despite threatening weather throughout the area during much of the week, the 1969 fair ended its season with more visitors than the previous year. Among exhibits were a record 129 head of dairy and beef cattle. Gate receipts topped the previous year which pleased the fair officials. Swine exhibitors dropped sharply in 1969, so an all out effort was made to increase the participation for the following year.

In 1970 stars of the Grand Ole Opry were on the stage again in the auditorium. They included names like Wilma Lee, Stoney Cooper, and Lester Flatt. Fair officials noted the best overall attendance in years. Many areas of the fair set new records for participation, but the top honors went to the cattle division with 193 head, and the swine division with 127 exhibits.

A favorite of the 1971 fair was the return of the “Fun Horse Show” conducted by the 4-H Light Horse and Pony Club. Activities included the “Anti-Nudist” Race where youngsters started in Bermuda shorts and sweatshirts, and raced to the end of the ring. Then they added such things as slacks, over coats and other heavy and bulky articles of clothing, and raced back to the other end of the ring. The youngster who got dressed and returned first, won. Other activities included “Musical Stalls”, played with a horse in somewhat the same fashion as musical chairs, and “Barrel Bending”. There was even a class called “Spin the Bottle”. Marty Aumen, a well known entertainer, was the master of ceremonies during the show on Tuesday, featuring the Blue Ridge Quartet, in the auditorium. On Wednesday “Scalzo and Company”, a clown act presented some beautiful magic, and Thursday’s performance included the return of Wilma Lee and Stoney Cooper. Friday the Morris Family entertained, and Saturday the Clyde Beaver Show from Nashville entertained. Over 400 exhibits were displayed in 1971. Adult admission to the fair went to $1.00 that year.

The effects of a tropical storm called “Agnes” was seen at the 1972 South Mountain Fair. The storm produced widespread flooding throughout many parts of the state that year, causing many hardships to people living in low lying areas. The wet spring and summer was evident in the corn, grains, and vegetable departments, with the number of exhibits dropping from previous years. The wet weather did produce an outstanding display of hays. A special feature at the Wednesday night’s event was the awarding of a three day bus trip for two to New York City. Youngsters enjoyed “Pete, The Clown” who strolled the fairgrounds that week. Other entertainment from Nashville included Jerry and Singing Goffs, Jane Downing and the Playmates, Jimmy Dickens and the Country Boys, and the Nashville Kitty Cats. The weather remained sunny through the five day event.

For years the fair always started on Tuesday after Labor Day in order to permit the fair officials to get everything ready during the holiday. But more and more people were working a five day week, and Saturday became a regular holiday. As a result, for the first time, the first day of the 1973 fair was held on Labor Day. Another change was the fair opening times. Instead of an all day event like in the past, the fair would now become just an afternoon and evening event. Also in 1973 the first two women were placed on the fair association board. That year there was a 20 percent increase in the number of exhibits, including 350 livestock exhibits that year, in which there were a number of sheep. Fair officials were forced to construct make-shift pens to handle the overflow. Fifteen commercial exhibitors were turned down because of the lack of enough inside exhibitor spaces. Changes made at the park included additional parking near the auditorium where timber was cleared, a vastly expanded midway, and a large new addition completed by the Biglerville firemen at their pavillion. Attendance for the fair was good with over 3,200 visitors on the first day. Entertainment included Barbara Allen and the Tennessee Hot Pants, Marty Aument and the Blue Ridge Quartet, Captain Rick and the Riverboat Crew, and the Winged Victory Chorus. In 1973 total expenses for the fair was $11,333.36. The electric costs that year was $1,822.78, and interest paid on loans totaled $683.33. Fair admission prices rose to $1.25.

There were only memories of the only other Adams County fair in 1974. The Adams County Fair located between Abbotstown and East Berlin ceased operations that year because the owners said they didn’t have enough time to produce the fair.

In the fall of 1974 the education building at the fairgrounds was destroyed by fire. This building played an important role because school exhibits like penmanship and others were displayed there. The first day of the fair was a rainy one, with showers starting early evening. Even though the weather was chilly Wednesday evening the attendance climbed to 4,500. The weather was better the remainder of the week which brought over 23,000 visitors. Instead of the traditional booklet, a larger tabloid listed various classes, categories, prizes, etc. Entertainment included Bill Dayton and his Band, the Blue Ridge Quartet, the Country Belles, the Versatones Quartet, and Red Sovine from the “Wheeling Jamboree”. Fair adult admission prices rose to $1.50.

In April of 1975 a disastrous storm struck the fairgrounds. High winds ravaged the park, ripping out over 40 trees and tearing down power lines. It flattened a cattle barn and destroyed a bank of transformers. The roofs of some buildings were blown off and others were weakened. Members from the community worked strenuously to clean up debris and make needed repairs. The storm wrecked the electrical system, which caused fair officials to put in a new permanent electrical system throughout the fairgrounds. It was a project costing nearly $50,000 over five years. A new building near the auditorium was constructed that year to house an additional twenty commercial exhibits. This not only made spaces for more exhibitors, but also cut down on the need for tents. However some large tents were still needed, particularly in the cattle division of the fair which continued to grow larger each year. Members from the Adams County Holstein Association supplied the manpower that year to paint the dairy show barn. The Adams County Beef Growers took part for the first time at the fair in 1975. On Monday, Labor Day, attendance was off considerably for the first day of the fair because of rainy weather. On Tuesday the weather cleared bringing several thousand spectators, which was the start of a successful year. A hot spot at the fair that year was in the arts, crafts, needlework, clothing, and photography exhibits. These departments were filled with entries and were very competitive. A number of Adams County exhibitors took “Best of Show” and other top awards. The entertainment included the Adams Brothers, The Blue Ridge Quartet, The Fabulous Flowers Musical Show, the Country Belles, and Roy Acuff, Jr.

In 1976 the Adams County Beef Growers Association constructed a 40’ by 100’ pole barn with metal sides, which held about 60 head of cattle for the fair. Another addition was a drinking fountain built by the 4-H members. Fair board directors received a letter from agriculture education teachers, stating there would be no “FFA Day” that year. Directors were saddened because the annual Future Farmers of America event brought so many students for competitive judging events. Entertainment included The Adams Brothers, The Blue Ridge Quartet, The Taylor Family, Marty Wenger and The West Orrtanna String Band. A favorite among visitors at the fair that year, as well as previous years, was the greased pig contest. Youngsters scurried around the horse show ring trying to catch a pig, which was matched to their age by a certain weight and greased down with lard. Small Bantam roosters were greased down for the real young.

Monday, the first day of the 1977 fair, had a near record crowd for the first day. There was a large display of exhibits in all categories. Tuesday’s entertainment featured The White Brothers Band, and Wednesday’s was a 4-H talent show. Thursday drew a very large crowd when Stella Parton took to the stage in the auditorium. Friday brought another country star to the stage, Lynn Stewart. Saturday’s program included a flea market along with evening entertainment called “Sing Our York” which was sponsored by three Adams County American Legion Posts and their auxiliaries.

In 1978 the fair association bought more land. This land was needed badly to relieve parking problems. So on October 11, 1978 they purchased 4.629 acres from Elliott and Anna Rita Schlosser for $15,000. This brought the total acreage of the fairgrounds to 45.548 acres. On the eve of the 56th annual South Mountain Fair, Earl F. Noel, then president of the fair association, announced that inflationary costs and other bad luck had brought a lot of challenges to the fair board. With the increased cost of the fair each year, and a $70,000 bank debt, the fair board of directors were expressing concern over the financial stability of the association. Most of the debt came about from the storm damage in 1975, which ravaged the fairgrounds. Repairs and the construction of a new steel building, plus the necessary acquisition of adjacent property have spiraled the debt. Liability insurance rates rocketed from $1,000 annually to $3,900 per year. Total operational costs for the five day fair in 1977 grew to $16,358.97. Interest paid in 1977 totaled $4,240.49, while electric costs soared to $3,023.64. Mr. Noel said, “We have faith in the future. We know that with the community’s support we can overcome these problems”.

The United Telephone Company had a large enclosed van at the 1978 fair. It housed a display of the history of communications, which had examples of the means of communications over the years. It was said to be like covering 5,000 years in 40 feet. Other new features at the fair were a division for heavy draft horses, fancy baskets of assorted fruits and nuts in the fruit department, and skillfully decorated cakes in the home products department. On the first day of the fair there were more than 5,000 attended, which set a record. There was also a 25 percent overall increase in the number of exhibitors. The fair turned out to be a record success that year with overall attendance figures estimated at 27,500. Income was $60,000, while expenses including premiums, totaled $43,000, for a net gain of $17,000. Liability insurance for the fairgrounds soared to over $4,000 in 1978. Entertainment included Helen and Billy Scott, The Blue Ridge Quartet, The Raindrops and The Rudy Varju Family. Horse pulls came to the fairgrounds for the first time that year, and yielded a large number of spectators. The adult gate admission was raised to $2.00 in 1978.

Visitation to the first night of the fair in 1979 was very good, with an estimated crowd of 7,500, which was the biggest night that year. Wednesday’s downpours kept the fair from being a record breaking attendance year. The horse pulls scheduled for Wednesday were washed out and couldn’t be rescheduled. The ticket booths remained idle and didn’t sell one admission ticket. Saturday night’s attendance was off, with an estimated 4,500 people. The fair board noted reasons attributing to the decline may have been the Gettysburg High School and Gettysburg College football games, and the East Berlin Colonial Days festivities held on Saturday. Overall paid admissions to the six day fair were off with figures estimated at 13,000. An unusual display in 1979 was at the Adams County Poultry Association booth, where the “Feather Professor” made a special appearance. The poultry specialist was a 150 pound chicken brought in by Penn State University and was hired to distribute the latest information on poultry to area poultrymen, promote poultry products and explain the rapidly changing poultry to the public. Entertainment in the auditorium that year was the Country Belles, The Blue Ridge Quartet, Lynn Stewart, The Farr Family and a group called Creekside.

The first day of the 1980 fair was hot, with temperatures reaching 95 degrees in the morning hours. The high temperatures may have been why the attendance was down from the previous year’s record visitation on the first day. Tuesday’s main program was a big show put on by Mother Nature, and included aerial fireworks. It seemd to provide a grand entrance for Pennsylvania’s Agriculture Secretary, Penrose Hallowell, and a grand exit for most of the other visitors to the fairgrounds. Wednesday and Thursday’s attendance figures were way down, about a thousand each day, probably due to the unusual hot and humid weather. Fewer people were eating full dinners at the fairground restaurants, while the concessions were selling more sandwiches, sodas, and ice cream than usual due to the hot temperatures. Friday and Saturday’s crowds were about 3,500. The weak attendance could also be blamed on the overall economy, which was down according to most commercial exhibitors. Because of the summer’s hot and dry weather, fair organizers expected a decrease in the crop and vegetable departments. But the number of exhibits kept up with prior years, which surprised fair officials. The fruit exhibit was one of the fullest in years, and the livestock department was filled to capacity. Even though it was termed a successful year the overall attndance figures didn’t reflect it. They were estimated at only 12,000. Entertainment for the week was Jerry and the Singing Goffs, The Vicksburg Quartet, Whiskers and Lace, and the Tyme Aires.

There were over 3,500 more exhibits from over 250 more exhibitors at the 1981 South Mountain Fair. The weather was great for the event except for the first day when the day started out on the rainy side, but then broke away in time for the annual greased pig and rooster competitions. Over 2,500 turned out the first day. The Midway was expanded but still included the usual assortment of rides. Entertainment was Al Smith, The Shades of Blue, The Cross and Flame Singers, The Blue Ridge Quartet, and the Country Belles.

The weather and exhibitors were good for the 1982 fair, but everything else was bad. Disappointing figures, like overall attendance, were down about 8 percent, and sales receipts at most food concessions were off by as much as 15 percent. One major reason could have been the economy in general, with declining sales reported in all segments of retail nationwide. Another item which may have added to the attendance slide was the beginning of the York Fair on Friday and the Colonial Days celebration in East Berlin on Saturday. Most other fairs in the area reported losses that year also. Monday, the first day, was good, with attendance reaching above 2,500. But Tuesday through Saturday saw a drop in visitation, with the horse pulls on Wednesday being the favorite. One big help financially for the fair board was a grant from Musselman Foundation in 1982, which followed a similar grant in 1981. The fair in 1982 had two “Family Nights” when fair goers could ride as many rides as they wished for one low ticket price. On Tuesday night admission was $2.50 per car rather than per person. Regular adult admission was raised that year to $2.50. Entertainment included Showdown, The Sound of Hope, The Horse Pulling Contest, Recreation, The Country Belles, and The Country Americans.

Hazy, hot and humid were some of the words used to describe the 1983 fair. Monday saw a rise in attendance over the previous year, when 2,250 paid to see the fair. Tuesday through Friday’s attendance were off greatly, with the temperature reaching 90 degrees in the shade. Because of the lagging figures, gate admissions were reduced to $1.50 after the first day. Saturday’s attendance was terrific, being 40 to 50 percent higher than the previous year. Concession stands and restaurants selling drinks and ice cream made out well in 1983, but food sales were off as much as 15 percent. The big talk Saturday night was whether there would be a fair the following year. Fair officials said the receipts, when tallied, would either make or break the fair association when it comes time to pay the bills. Financially things did work out. However the association made plans to change the 1984 fair dates in hopes of generating larger crowds and community support. Entertainment featured a musical group called Sounds of Hope, The Donnie Seabolt Band, The Nat Stuckey Show, The Al Shade Show, and Sadie Green Sales. A video game area was a hit with kids, while adults attended the pony pulls in larger than expected crowds.
The South Mountain Fair dates changed in 1984. That year it opened on August 30 and ended on Labor Day. In prior years it opened on Labor Day and continued through the following week. The reduced adult admission remained in place at $1.50, with a $1.00 parking fee. There were two “ride nights” where people could ride as many rides as they wished for $5.00. Rain dampened the fairgrounds on the last night, Labor Day. The auditorium shows included The Country Belles, The Donnie Seabolt Band, and the Vicksburg Quartet. The biggest show in the auditorium was on Friday night, and included the performance of Tommy Cash, the brother of country music legend, Johnny Cash. Paid overall attendance reached 12,500, which netted $18,000 with parking charges in 1984.

The winning drawing card in 1985 was ‘The Dallas Knockouts”, which performed twice. Nine teams were entered in the horse pulls on Friday, opening day. Each team of horses were required to pull a sled in the shape of a wooden wagon box, a distance of 27.5 feet at a certain weight, and those which failed to do so were disqualified. The contest brought back many memories of days from the past. Over 20,000 visitors attended the 1985 fair. Paid admissions and parking amounted to over $20,000. The entertainment in the auditorium was Ray Owen, The Al Shade Show, and The Donnie Seabolt Band. There was an open archery tournament on Sunday afternoon.

A lot of repair work went on at the fairgrounds in 1986. Some of the buildings were repaired and painted. The large centralized building and the outside display areas were completely rewired. The central road through the midway was blacktopped, as well as in front of the restaurant. The parking areas were graded and improved, with tons of stone being placed on the roadways. The Dallas Knockouts mud wrestling show was again a favorite during the fair. Another favorite was the return of the horse pulling contest. The entertainment in the auditorium was the Sound of Renown, The Country Belles, and the Donnie Seabolt Band. The admission was still $1.50 and parking was $1.00

More improvements took place in 1987. The auditorium needed some repairs badly. So members of the community and the fair board started on the stage area first. The old curtains, which were soiled, were removed. The stage walls and floors were painted, and a modern dressing room was provided off the main stage. Restroom facilities, which were made handicapped accessible, were constructed just in time for the fair. Over $75,000 was spent over 1985, 1986, and 1987. Much time and energy was spent to upgrade the fairgrounds in a community effort. When the 1987 fair began, things were looking good. Over 8,000 paying visitors came to the fair the first three nights, and the last two nights were usually the better nights. But rains silenced the last two days, with attendance barely topping 3,500 for Sunday and Labor Day. Even though fair officials were upset, they still kept positive feelings about the overcast skies. That year was not a very good year for growing crops due to near drought conditions. Rain was a summer long desire that year. The directors knew the rain would do the community much more good than a fair would. While the fair stayed open until 8 p.m. Monday as planned, cashiers stopped charging admission around 7 p.m. Of the two musical acts scheduled for Sunday and Monday nights, only one show was cancelled because of small crowds. The $13,000 in gate receipts did cover the nearly $11,000 in premium prize monies paid that year, but the operating costs for the fairgrounds were near $55,000. Entertainment that year included the group Keystone, Ray Owen, The Bruce VanDyke Band, The Donnie Seabolt Band, and a musical performing group called Life.

A new building was built in 1988. The Adams County Beef Producers Association finally had a home of their own. The $25,000 building was constructed in July to be used as a show ring. The open air ring, constructed by Hanover Pole Buildings Co., included spectator bleachers, an area for judges and a cattle weighing station. Most of the money, labor, and time was donated. Hanover Pole Buildings made the largest contribution, by donation of $5,000. The Upper Adams Jaycees and the South Mountain Fair Association donated $1,000 each. There were also more than 50 persons or organizations who donated $100 each. There was also $35,000 spent on restoring the auditorium. In order to enable more flexible use of the auditorium, the 750 old padded seats were removed and replaced with 750 new folding chairs. The association donated 400 of the old seats to the Fayette County Fair and disposed of the other 350. The stage received new curtains, and the inside of the auditorium was painted. The roof was recoated and the electrical system was updated. The dressing room received new carpet, and new lights were installed. The major contributors to the auditorium improvements were the Knouse Family and Knouse Foods Cooperative. The funds were contributed in memory of Mr. M.E. Knouse who was on the fair board for over 44 years. The fairgrounds also had new restroom facilities in 1988. A $50,000 Morton pole building, 80 feet long, was a shared expense between the South Mountain Fair Association and the Upper Adams Jaycees. The fair association paid $27,000, of which $17,000 came from a comnmunity block grant through the Adams County Commissioners. A portion of the building was used to store items for the National Apple Harvest Festival. The 1988 fair had good weather, but officials were hoping for better attendance the first three nights. The entertainment included the Sweet Adelines, the Donnie Seabolt Band, and the son of Merle Haggard, Marty Haggard.

At the fair in 1989 there was a special ceremony to rededicate the Memorial Auditorium. The ceremony recognizd all those individuals, families, and organizations who gave donations to renovate the building. At the same time, the Biglerville American Legion Post 262 dedicated a flag pole and an American flag which was erected outside of the auditorium. A new $30,000 swine and sheep building was built in 1989 also. The livestock pens in the new building were a ‘take down’ type so the building could be used for a variety of other purposes. The fair opened on Thursday in 1989, with beautiful weather. Friday and Saturday brought overcast skies but no rain. Sunday and Monday were two nice days with temperatures in the mid 80’s. Attendance was estimated at 22,000, and the fair officials deemed it a great year. Entertainment included the Canyon River Band, Little Country, the Bobby Mercer Show, The Brothers, and a group called Stagecoach.

There was over $20,000 spent on improvements at the fairgrounds in 1990. The threat of bad weather was absent that year, and sunny skies prevailed. The horse pulls were a favorite on Thursday afternoon. Friday’s entertainment in the auditorium was an excellent show called Re-creation, and the attendance was good. Saturday brought many inside to see and hear The Bobby Mercer Show. Two shows highlighted Sunday’s program with Old Time Music and Al Smith and Company taking the stage. Monday finalized the indoor shows with Lovell Buchanan’s Magic Circus. Fair officials were pleased with the turnout.

In 1991 the weather was chilly for the first day of the fair, but fair officials were pleased with the turnout. Thursday brought light showers in the afternoon, clearing to sunny skies toward evening, which hurt the visitation. Friday and Saturday the crowd was large, and climbed above 1990’s numbers for those two days. Sunday was strong until late afternoon when attendance appeared to be sparse. Entertainment included Cole Train, Keystone, The Larry Lee Jones Show, The Pfeifers, The Orrtanna Mountain Steamers, The Dutton Family, and Bob Devlin.

In 1992 the South Mountain Fair Association received a $25,000 grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture for the completion of a steel framed building to be used for storage and maintenance. The first food auction was held at the fair, with all proceeds going to the Adams County Chapter of the American Cancer Society. Food entries were auctioned to the highest bidder, including top winning entries. The numbers of entries all increased in 1992 except for the fruit department, where a disappointing number of exhibits puzzled fair officials. Only one fourth of the usual numbers were entered. The first four days of the fair attendance was to expectations. But it rained on Sunday, the last day, which brought overall attendance figures down 5 to 10 percent. Sunday’s performance by Cissie Lynn, Loretta Lynn’s daughter, played to a half filled auditorium. Officials said they were pleased despite the wet ending. Other entertainment included The Country Music Jamboree, The Hubcaps, Dancing with the Apple Core Band, and the Dutton Family.

In 1993 the Adams County Beef Association organized, contracted, and financed the construction of a new building on the fairgrounds to hold auctions and for storage. Rain and hot weather hurt the fair that year. On the opening day the hot and very humid weather not only had an effect on the animals, but also kept people from going to the fair. Thursday turned out well, but thunderstorms plagued the fairgrounds on Friday, bringing a closing early. Officials reported fair attendance down 25 percent for the first three days. Fair officials lucked out on Saturday when the entertainment was Jeanie C. Riley, and the show was well attended. Sunny blue skies greeted people on Sunday, and the crowds were good. Other entertainment included Baillie and the Boys, The Paddyfields and Johnny Dark, and Stu Huggins and the Susquehanna River Band. Exhibits in all departments were good, even in the fruit department where entries were down the previous year. In 1992 fair officials were informed by the Department of Environmental Resources they had to install a sewage system at the fairgrounds. So an engineer was hired to design a system to meet the requirements. The engineer’s plans called for a Phase III (three part) sewage system plan, of which the first part had to be installed. Phase I, the first part of the system, was installed in 1993, forcing the fair association into a $100,000 bank debt. With limited funds that year, the fair association and others worked hard to continue everyday association functions and keep financial stability. Along with the expense of pumping the sewage holding tank came other added expenses such as interest expense, higher electric bills, rising insurance costs, and unforeseen maintenance costs. But the board of directors were determined to keep the fairgrounds and it’s operations going on limited funds.

In 1994 the South Mountain Fair was very enjoyable even though operating capital was low. The Junior Dairy barn was added to the fairgrounds. Area youth raised the necessary $16,000 for the building by holding fundraisers. A week of perfect weather brought larger than expected crowds for the 72nd annual fair. Ronnie McDowell presented a terrific show to a full house in the auditorium on Saturday night. Other entertainment included the Bruce VanDyke Band.

In 1995 fair attendance on Wednesday, the first night, was good. The horse pulls were the highlight that day, and the crowd was large. Local entertainment was in the auditorium, with the Bruce VanDyke Band taking the stage. The food auction went well, with proceeds benefitting the South Central Community Action Programs. Thursday night brought showers that caused attendance to drop, but Friday and Saturday’s crowds were large. Entertainment on those two nights had admission charges due to the top rated performers who were there. The Nashville group Pirates of the Mississippi were on tap for Friday, and the legendary country music star Mel McDaniel highlighted Saturday’s entertainment. Sunday’s truck and tractor pulls were a big hit outside, but attendance was weak elsewhere.

Good weather greeted fair visitors in 1996, with Wednesday’s crowds very promising. The horse pulls were a favorite on opening day, with a good number of people also attending the food auction, which benefitted the American Red Cross. On Thursday Ray Owen presented a program called “Hats Off to America” that was well received, while the entertainment in the auditorium was presented by the Colgan Brothers, a local group from Hanover. Friday was disappointing when showers blanketed the area in early afternoon, and kept visitors at home. Something new which drew a good crowd on Friday night was the “Country Hoe Down”, where many came to line dance and have a good time. On Saturday the featured entertainment was a Nashville country music group called “Exile”, who sang all of their hit songs including their ten #1 hit songs. On Sunday a great gospel group, The Forbes Family, entertained. The week following the 1996 fair rain storms flooded the fairgrounds. It washed out roadways and guard rails, flooded the office and other buildings, and caused a lot of other damage throughout the fairgrounds. Fair officials, as well as others, worked strenuously to repair the damages left by the flooding. Repairing the fairgrounds needed to be finished in short time because of the upcoming Apple Harvest Festival being held by the Upper Adams Jaycees. Thousands of dollars were needed to cover the cost of these repairs.

Celebrating 75 Years

This year is the “75th Anniversary” for the South Mountain Fair. Through good years and bad the fair and the fairgrounds have survived. All because of the community of good people who live and work within the area. The South Mountain Fair is for your patron. The policy of the present organization is the same as that of the past. It is to have the best fair possible at the least expense. Our intent is to create a fair of high educational value with good, clean entertainment. Many of the food concessions are locally operated, serving good meals and lunches. The exhibits in all departments prove interesting to inspect and are unsurpassed in their quality.

There is no other fair in Pennsylvania like the South Mountain Fair. To appreciate this, one must actually see and know the inside workings of the group who put on the fair. These are men, women, boys and girls who serve on various committees. They come from all sections of the county. When a loyal group such as this get together to promote a fair, it is bound to be a success. The success or failure of the South Mountain Fair actually depends upon four groups of people. First, those who give freely of their time and efforts to manage the operations of the association and conduct the fair each year. Second, that group of people who spend their money to visit the fair, to enjoy the shows and the rides, and admire the exhibits. Third, those business people who realize that the cheapest advertising they can purchase is by displaying their wares in commercial spaces on the fairgrounds. And fourth, but not least, that group of men, women, boys and girls who bring the products from farms and homes and place them on display in friendly competition with their neighbors and friends. It would be unfair and impossible to say which group is most important.

It is important to stress the need of exhibits. Adams County, and the surrounding areas are blessed with soils and climate that will produce the best of most every thing that is grown. The talents and industry of its people are capable of growing the highest quality of farm products, and the processing of high quality canned and baked goods, needlework, etc. It is true that it takes some time to produce a prize winning exhibit, and not everyone can win a blue ribbon. However, the aim of the association is to encourage folks to participate in friendly competition in the various departments with exhibits. Also efforts are being made to encourage the young folks to take a part in the fair through the 4-H, the FFA, the schools, and the Boy and Girl Scouts.

And now, citizens of Adams County, it is up to you. This is your fair. Plan to bring exhibits from your farms, gardens, and homes. If you think you have something good, bring it to the fair and enter it in friendly competition. We can’t have a good fair unless you as an individual take an interest in it. Last of all, it is of the utmost importance that you give your wholehearted support in attendance at the fair. If we are to have a bigger and better county fair in the future, we must make this one a success. Let’s make our Adams County Fair a great one. You should extend an invitation to your friends throughout the state.

**The one-time visitor to the South Mountain Fair sees only a single beautiful “still-life” picture of the fruit and farm related products of Adams County. But the fair board of directors see a “motion-picture” reel of over 75 harvest seasons. What a wonderful partnership we have with Nature here in Adams County!

Written by: David M. McCleaf, 1997


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