This year marks the 110th year of the McKean County Fair, an area event that has stayed true to its agricultural roots, while also evolving to offer visitors the best in live entertainment. The fairgrounds, located at 7172 Route 46 in Smethport, PA, will be the hub of education, edible delights, and excitement Aug. 15-22. For an authentic experience of all that makes this county unique, including agriculture, wildlife, and the vast Allegheny National Forest, plan to visit the McKean County Fair this month!
Like many county fairs, the McKean County Fair began in 1903 as a place for local farmers and vendors to exhibit and sell their livestock, homegrown fruits and vegetables, and homemade treats. The fair continues this tradition by devoting the first weekend of the fair, Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 15-16 to all things agricultural. “AG Weekend,” which is free to attend, features the Tractor Parade on Saturday morning, as well as the Southern Tier Mini Tractor Pullers in the afternoon. Sunday morning continues with tractor games, leading up to the Opening Ceremonies at 6pm. Visitors should know that no rides will be in operation during this weekend, as the focus is on agricultural events.
Throughout the week of the fair, visitors can explore the different agricultural barns. 4-H students will be exhibiting beef, sheep, swine, and goats in the Larry Ackley Complex. Rabbits, chickens, and other fowl are housed in the Danny Baker Building. At the 4-H Center, fair-goers can support area 4-H students who take turns throughout the week selling milkshakes, hot dogs, and daily specials. Interested in an exciting, live agricultural experience? Stop by the dairy barn, where you can learn how to milk a cow and possibly see the birth of a new calf!
The Allegheny National Forest, which is located primarily in McKean County, is of particular importance to the fair, as its natural resources and wildlife are part of what makes this area unique. The Pennsylvania WoodMobile is a fascinating exhibit that teaches visitors how Pennsylvania’s forests have shaped the state’s history and industry. This 34-foot air-conditioned trailer, pulled by a truck, highlights the state’s different hardwood species, the timber industry, and various threats to the forests such as certain insect and plant species. Bear Hill Horse Logging owner, Steve Perrine, will be at the fair all week talking about the importance of logging to the growth of forests, and demonstrating how to log with horses on Friday and Saturday.
Indeed, the Allegheny National Forest is a beautiful place, but it has its natural predators. Among those are Pennsylvania’s Timber Rattlesnakes, which are poisonous; Bob and Lisa Zumstein, owners of Tandem Training and Tracking will be sharing information on safety precautions and preservation of this snake species from Thursday through Saturday. Visitors can also meet several birds of prey that will be on display, courtesy of Eagle Dream Rehabilitation, Thursday through Saturday. Eagle Dream rescues, treats, rehabilitates, and returns to the wild these important endangered species, many of which are native to the Allegheny National Forest.
In addition to this range of educational exhibits, the McKean County Fair offers fun entertainment all week long! According to Denise Hale, who has been a part of the fair for many years and is superintendent of Group Exhibits, “Patrons look forward to many things – fair food, looking at the animals and riding the rides!” This year, Bates Brothers Amusements will again be providing the midway rides, which are included with every gate admission.
Hale is excited to announce that this year’s fair will include daily performances by Dan Mink, the Rhinestone Roper. Dan, Lucky Joe, and Handsome Jack have been performing for several years at state and county fairs across the United States; their show features expert trick roping, bull whip cracking, six gun spinning, and even “Wheel of Death Knife Throwing”! Team Rock, national champion Martial Arts Breaking Experts, will be performing daily by impressing audiences with their athletic, even acrobatic board-breaking demonstrations. Fair-goers should keep in mind that daily grounds entertainment and midway rides will be taking place Monday through Saturday, and will not be a part of the first weekend of the fair (AG Weekend).
Hale emphasizes that gate admission also includes the evening entertainment throughout most of the week. Monday night features a Johnny Cash and June Carter Tribute Band, while Tuesday night’s performance features area singer/songwriter Katie Rubino. At 8pm on Wednesday, the Painted Pony Championship Rodeo - the largest professional rodeo company in New York - will be amazing audiences with these prize-winning “animal athletes.”
At 8pm Tuesday, Full Pull Productions, Inc. will host the Truck and Tractor Pull. For just $6, visitors can witness this thrilling exhibition of power that is being featured for the first time in several years at the McKean County Fair. Fans of extreme sports will be interested in the motocross event, which also has a $6 grandstand fee, on Friday night at 7:30pm. The U.S. FMX National Championship Series will bring its top riders to the fair; these impressive athletes are among the few in the country who perform stunts that launch their motorcycles more than 70 feet through the air!
General admission to the fair is $8 and can be purchased at the gate or in advance. Hale says tickets are available now throughout the county, at Buchanan’s Pharmacy locations, the Bradford Era office, Costa’s Supermarkets, and most area banks. On Wednesday, all veterans and active duty personnel, with proof of military service, will be admitted free onto the grounds all day. On Thursday, Senior Citizens Day, seniors 62 and older will also be admitted free. Saturday, Aug. 22 is Fire Prevention Day, when local fire personnel with proper identification can visit the fair for free.
In reflecting on the McKean County Fair and what makes it a special event every year, Hale cites the people who make this event possible and a strong sense of community. “[It’s the] friendly people,” explains Hale, “and we provide golf cart transportation for our elderly and disabled patrons.”
Indeed, the McKean County Fair is the place where every member of the family can enjoy a hands-on experience of what makes McKean County unique. For more information on the fair, visit www.mckeancountyfair.net or call the fair office at 814-887-5361.