Westmoreland Fair lines up new tractor, truck pull event

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What has 23 llamas, 267 cows, 142 quilts, five monster trucks and 60,000 people?

This year's Westmoreland Fair, of course.

It's that wonderful summertime mix of families competing to win blue ribbons for their animals, plus the excitement of the midway lighted at night with a dizzying array of rides, games and food, and entertainment ranging from bull riding to demolition derbies.

For nine days, thousands will flock to the fairgrounds in Mt. Pleasant Township for the 59th annual event, which runs Aug. 16 through Aug. 24.

About the fair

Admission: $7 per person, children 2 and younger admitted free. Includes parking and exhibits; grandstand arena events extra

Gates open: 4 p.m. Aug. 16; 10 a.m.-11 p.m. Aug. 17-24

For a complete daily schedule, go to www.westmorelandfair.com

Directions: The fairgrounds are in Mount Pleasant Township, southeast of Greensburg, on Blue Ribbon Lane, just off Mount Pleasant Road.

New this year will be bigger truck and tractor competitions, which traditionally are the best attended events of the week, according to Michelle Long, fair secretary.

On Aug. 17, organizers have added a true monster truck event with five turbo-engine vehicles. On Aug. 22, there will be a pro stock and super stock tractor pull and a two-wheel-drive truck pull.

The tractor and truck pulls on the last Friday of the fair are usually the biggest draws of the week, where cars can back up for 6 to 10 miles just to get into the fair.

"We can get 12,000 people between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. here on that last Friday," Mrs. Long said.

But she said the new Thursday night tractor and truck pull may give the Friday night event a run for top draw -- since it will be the "hottest and biggest tractor pull ever," she said.

There are many other contests to enter or watch.

For the brave, on Aug. 19, there is the Bullride Mania, a rodeo competition. A company will provide 15 bulls for contestants.

There are three nights of demolition derbies, and a riding lawn mower contest.

For music lovers, three local rock bands will perform at night: Totally '80s on Aug. 17, Switch on Aug. 21 and Twisted Fate on Aug. 24.

Fair-goers can sample every possible kind of food at the 200 vendors, from chocolate-covered bacon to corn dogs to cotton candy.

For those who excel in the kitchen, or at crafts, many of the blue-ribbon judged events are open to the public as well as 4-H members.

They include categories for juniors, those 18 and under, as well as adults, in baked goods, jams and jellies, handcrafts, quilts and clothing.

They include contests for the best homemade wine and beer, chocolate cake and floral arrangements.

For the county's farm families, the week is filled with judged competitions for their animals, including various categories for dairy cows, goats, rabbits, llamas, pigs and horses.

Blue ribbons for the animals come with a small monetary prize -- anywhere from $5 to $10 -- but the biggest reward is the pride of knowing your animal is the best in its class.

Johanna Sheppard of New Derry, a 4-H educator for the Penn State Extension office in Greensburg, has judged the fair animals in the past, and her organization helps find judges for the fair. She and her family raise sheep at their small farm.

She said 4-H members must "present" animals to the judges, meaning they must walk the animal and stop it before the judge.

"Showmanship is a big part of the judging," she said. The animal may be judged on a straight top line, the owner's control of the animal, its grooming, its size, how it stands. If it is an animal going to market, it may be judged on its weight and muscle, as well.

Llamas, for instance, which are raised for their fiber, will be judged on the uniformity of color in the hair. Because they are pack animals used to carry objects, they are also put through an obstacle course to see how they behave.

A new fair queen will be chosen on the first Friday night of the fair, and she will represent Westmoreland County's farmers for the next year.

"I'll be sorry to see [current 4-H queen] Rachel Sheffler go," Mrs. Long said. "She did a fantastic job representing the farmers and the fair." The fair queen attends regional parades and festivals in the year of her reign, and also competes in Hershey in January in the state fair queen competition.

Ms. Sheffler, 19, of New Alexandria, is a rising sophomore at Penn State University's main campus, majoring in veterinary and biomedical science.

County fairs are big business in Pennsylvania.

Mrs. Long cited a study by the Pennsylvania State Association for Fairs showing that 110 fairs in the state attract 5.5 million visitors each year and have a $50 million economic impact. And most county fairs are 50 years old or more.

Admission to the Westmoreland Fair is the same as it has been for several years -- $7 -- which includes parking and access to fair exhibits and the midway. Grandstand events are extra.

The grandstand has 5,500 covered seats, and a hill area where spectators can sit on the grass.

Last year, the fair attracted 62,400 people during its nine days -- up by 3,400 people over 2011.

"Our attendance always depends on Mother Nature, but she's been pretty nice to us the last five years," Mrs. Long said.

"It hasn't been too hot or too cold, and not too much rain at one time," she said. "If we get good weather, we are hoping for 65,000 this year."

neigh_east - neigh_westmoreland

Debra Duncan, freelance: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com.


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