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Fair season is underway: here's a guide to Lancaster County's 2019 fairs

ferris wheel etown fair

Fairs are back in Lancaster County with the start of the Elizabethtown Fair.

Through October, fairs will pop up in six more communities throughout the county, which has the most fairs of any county in the state.

Each fair is a homecoming that draws tens of thousands of people from near and far.

There are parade and contests to see who grew the biggest and best produce or created the nicest quilt.

There are competitions judging the best baby photo to the strongest iron man.

There are magicians, chainsaw artists, mini-pony shows plus bands and music.

And most of this is free.

It will cost you to glide down a 33-foot inflatable Titantic slide or to put together a meal of all things fried, barbecued, pickled and frozen.

While many traditions return to Lancaster County’s fairs, there are some changes this year.

The tug-of-war competition is back in New Holland. Organizers canceled it last year after they couldn’t recruit enough teams from volunteer fire companies.

It’s back and open to any group.

“We’re hoping youth groups and church groups will come in,” says Bill Fisher, president of the New Holland Farmers Day Association.

Last year, Ephrata celebrated its 100th fair with a week of special events. With rain on the forecast, organizers made the tough call to cancel the big parade. They’ve invited many of the groups back for this year’s parade, including more than 20 bands, says Randy Leinbach, one of the parade’s organizers.

One thing missing will be the dairy beef auction at the Elizabethtown Fair. Dairy cattle will be for show only because a sponsor couldn’t be found, says fair secretary Sally Nolt.

And while the ag community is on the lookout for African swine flu, local fair organizers have not canceled any swine shows.

Here’s a guide to the seven Lancaster County fairs associated with the Pennsylvania State Association of County Fairs. There also are many smaller community fairs that continue through the fall.

Elizabethtown Fair (ran Aug. 19-24)

When: Aug. 19-24.

Hours: Monday, 5-11 p.m.; Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Location: Fairgrounds at 900 E. High St.

Started: The Jaycees sponsored a community picnic, which led to the first fair in 1973.

Details: Agricultural fair with judged exhibits, commercial exhibits, contests, food, rides, entertainment, livestock shows and a daily petting zoo (open 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.). The fair queen competition is at 6 p.m. Monday, Aug. 19. Skid loader rodeos are Tuesday, Aug. 20 (youth at 6 p.m. and adult at 7 p.m.). Fleece-to-shawl demo is Wednesday, Aug. 21, at 5 p.m. A celebrity milking contest is Friday, Aug. 23, at 4 p.m. Fireworks are Saturday, Aug. 24, at 10:45 p.m.

New this year: Dairy beef will be for show only, and the animals will not be sold. A cornhole tournament for youth ages 12-17 is new. There will be a native American culture display Aug. 21-23 at 6 p.m. each day, plus native American drumming, flute and hoop dancing (Wednesday, Aug. 21, at 6 p.m.) Farmer for a Day will have extended hours: Monday through Friday, 5-9 p.m.; Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.) The pet show has been canceled due to low participation.

Cost: Entry to the fair is free. Parking is $5.

Entertainment highlights: A tribute to veterans with Dan and Galla will be held Monday, Aug. 19, at 5:15 p.m. and Pleasant Passage (southern gospel) is at 7:30 p.m. Aaron Kelly (country) performs Wednesday, Aug. 21, at 8 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. The Fabulous Greaseband performs Saturday, Aug. 24, at 7:30 p.m.

Food not to miss: Rhino fries covered in cheese and bacon from T.J. Rockwell’s and barbecue from Harvey’s BBQ are popular.

Fun fact: Anyone 62 or older can register for the senior king and queen contest on Wednesday, Aug. 21. The winners each get a $100 prize.

Information: or 717-367-0508.

 Denver Fair

When: Sept. 10-14.

Hours: Midway opens at 4 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, noon Friday and 11 a.m. Saturday. Select food stands open at 11 a.m. Rides start at 6 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and at 1 p.m. Friday and Saturday. The fair closes at 10 p.m. weekdays and 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

Location: Denver Memorial Park, 800 Main St.

Started: 1981.

Details: Agricultural fair with judged exhibits, rides, contests, food, livestock shows and entertainment. Miss Denver Fair coronation is Tuesday, Sept. 10, at 7:30 p.m. The pet show is Saturday, Sept. 14, at 9 a.m. The Jell-O eating contest is Saturday, Sept. 14, at 1 p.m. The cornhole competition is Saturday, Sept. 14, at 3 p.m.

New this year: A strolling magician, Erick Hershey, will perform throughout the fair 5:30-7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 12. Horsing Around will have three daily shows of family-friendly equine entertainment.

Cost: Free. Parking is $5.

Entertainment highlights: Ryan & Friends will bring their comedy and characters Wednesday, Sept. 11, at 6:30 p.m. School bands perform Thursday, Sept. 14, at 6:30 p.m. Jess Zimmerman Band performs Friday, Sept. 13, at 7 p.m.

Food not to miss: Cheeseburgers from Schoeneck Area Lions Club and Fink’s french fries.

Information: or 717-336-4072.

Solanco Fair

When: Sept. 18-20.

Hours: 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.

Location: Fairgrounds, 172 S. Lime St., Quarryville.

Started: 1950.

Details: Agricultural fair with judged exhibits, contests and food. The parade is Wednesday, Sept. 18, at 6 p.m. The antique tractor pull is Thursday, Sept. 19, at 11 a.m., and the antique and classic tractor pull is at 6 p.m. The tug-of-war contest is Thursday, Sept. 19, at 7:30 p.m.

New this year: The Hoffman Community Building has a new addition with new bathrooms. The Farm Women group will sell funnel cake from a stand that was new last year. The Solanco fair queen competition is back, and is on Saturday, Sept. 14, at 6 p.m. at East Drumore Township building, 925 Robert Fulton Highway, Quarryville. The queen competition returned last year after a 48-year break.

Cost: Free entry and free parking.

Fun fact: The Iron Man Contest is Friday, Sept. 20 at 7:30 p.m. The first 20 people to sign up will compete in a tractor pull, hay bale toss, milk jug carry and hay bale stacking for the $40 first prize.

Information: or 786-1661.

Did you know: In the tractor driving contest, competitors need to back a tractor with a wagon into a tiny parking spot. The winner gets bragging rights and a $15 premium.

Ephrata Fair

When: Sept. 24-28.

Hours: Midway is open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday; 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Saturday. Exhibits and rides open at 4 p.m.

Location: Downtown Ephrata, including Main and State streets, is where most of the entertainment, rides, games and nonagricultural exhibits are displayed. Tent city is at Grater Memorial Park, also called Ephrata Park, off of Cocalico Street. This is the main space for animals, tractors and agricultural exhibits and events.

Started: 1919 for the downtown area and 1956 for Tent City.

Details: Agricultural fair with judged exhibits, rides, entertainment, contests, livestock shows and food. The parade is Wednesday, Sept. 25, at 7 p.m. The toy pig drop (replacing the pig chase) is Tuesday, Sept. 24 ,at 7:30 p.m.

New this year: The popular pork chop dinner will no longer be organized by Ephrata Area Young Farmers Association, but the tradition continues on Tuesday, Sept. 24, at 5 p.m. Last year’s parade was supposed to be bigger than ever for the fair’s 100th anniversary but it was canceled because of rain. Many of the bands will return for this year’s parade. The cow-milking contest returns to the fair Tuesday, Sept. 24, at 6:30 p.m.

Cost: Free.

Entertainment: The SwingTime Dolls perform Thursday, Sept. 26, at 7:30 p.m. Stephanie Grace Band (country) performs Saturday, Sept. 28, at 7:30 p.m.

Food not to miss: Toasted cheeseburgers from the Akron Lions Club and milkshakes at Tent City from the Ephrata Church of the Brethren.

Fun fact: The fair is known as Pennsylvania’s largest street fair.

Information: or 717-733-4451.

West Lampeter Fair

When: Sept. 25-27.

Hours: The fair opens at noon Wednesday, Sept. 25. Thursday and Friday, the fair opens at 9 a.m., and the last activity starts at 9 p.m. each day.

Location: Fairgrounds at 851 Village Road.

Started: 1924.

Details: Agricultural fair with judged exhibits, commercial exhibits, contests, food, entertainment and livestock shows. A community hymn sing is Sunday, Sept. 22, at 6:45 p.m. at the fairgrounds. The fair queen competition is Wednesday, Sept. 25, at 7:30 p.m. The all-western horse show is Friday, Sept. 27, at 10:30 a.m. The petting zoo will be open Wednesday, Sept. 25, from 1-9 p.m. and from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 26, and Friday, Sept. 27.

New this year: Rannels Rustics (chainsaw entertainment) will create carvings throughout the fair. Awesome Ag Magic Show will perform daily.

Cost: Free. Park for a donation to Lampeter Fire Company.

Food not to miss: Milkshakes from the Lampeter Fair directors and funnel cakes from the Lancaster South Rotary Club.

Did you know: All of the food at this fair is made by local school and community groups. The fair focuses on agriculture and doesn’t have rides.


New Holland Farmers Fair

When: Oct. 2-5.

Hours: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Location: The farm show building at 101 W. Franklin St. holds most of the exhibits. The midway, games and contests are held on West Main Street (Route 23), North and South Roberts Avenue and Franklin Street.

Started: 1927.

Details: Agricultural fair with judged exhibits, commercial exhibits, contests, food, rides, entertainment and livestock shows. The parade is Wednesday, Oct. 2, at 7 p.m.

New this year: The tug-of-war is back after a one-year break and is no longer just for firefighters. The new contest will accept teams that are not part of a fire company. Preliminary rounds start Thursday, Oct. 3, and finals will be held Saturday, Oct. 5. Also new is a breeding goat show, in addition to the market goat show Thursday, Oct. 3, at 1:30 p.m.

Cost: Free.

Food not to miss: Ham and cheese sandwiches from New Holland Lions Club and Fink’s french fries.

Fun fact: Eastern Lancaster County School District has early dismissal Friday so students can enjoy the fair.

Information: or 717-354-5880.

Manheim Farm Show

When: Oct. 7-11.

Hours: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.

Location: 502 Adele Ave. (next to Manheim Central High School).

Started: 1953.

Details: Agricultural farm show with judged exhibits, commercial exhibits, contests, food, rides, entertainment and livestock shows. A gospel concert is held Saturday, Oct. 5, at Manheim Brethren in Christ. (Times have not been finalized for this year’s farm show events.) The fireman’s competition is Monday night, Oct. 7. The parade is Wednesday night, Oct. 9.

New this year: A mechanical bull and a 33-foot slide in the shape of the Titanic will be at the farm show. There will also be free ag demonstrations plus make-and-take activities through the week.

Cost: Free.

Food not to miss: French fries and milkshakes. Last year, more than 6 tons of fries were sold.

Information: or 717-665-7480.