HARRISBURG - Each year, Pennsylvania produces a half billion dollars' worth of mushrooms, three million pounds of tart cherries, more than seven billion chicken eggs and what's billed as the country's largest indoor agricultural event.
That winter tradition, the Pennsylvania Farm Show, formally opens Saturday for an eight-day run that showcases the many aspects of life on the state's 62,000 farms.
This year marks the 97th time the event has been held, with a schedule of events at the 24-acre Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg that includes livestock judging, cooking contests and exhibitions, rodeo competitions and tractor pulls.
The 2013 theme is "Made in PA. It Makes a Difference," highlighting the state's varied agricultural products, including honey, maple syrup, wool and Christmas trees.
The butter sculpture - a perennial Farm Show favorite, along with the sheep-to shawl contest and celebrity cow milking - drew from the theme, depicting many of the items that are produced within Pennsylvania. Once the show is over, that butter will be converted to 65 kilowatt hours of electricity to help run a Juniata County farm.
The theme is "absolutely appropriate," said Farm Show spokeswoman Nicole Bucher. "Its' a great stage upon which to let people know that when they buy local agricultural products, they're not only supporting their farmers, they're also supporting their local communities."
Another popular feature of the show is the food court, which has added to its artery clogging offerings this year with bacon on a stick, veal meatball sandwiches, pumpkin funnel cakes and apple cider slushies.
A polo demonstration is also new, as are a grape stomping contest, cow patty bingo and a set of quirky competitions such as decorative bowling pins, duct tape art and competitive pin cushion design.
During last year's Farm Show visitors ate 14,000 slices of pizza, 33,500 chicken nuggets and 750 gallons of honey ice cream, and washed it all down with 140,000 milk shakes and 11,000 "strawberry surprise" drinks.
The state's first lady, Susan Corbett, will show off her mushroom cooking chops on Monday, gingersnap cookies will be judged on Tuesday, children will race big wheels on Wednesday, nut tree grafting will demonstrated on Thursday and tractors will square dance - yes, square dance - on Friday.
Some 400,000 people are expected to visit the Farm Show's 10,000 competitive exhibits, 300 commercial exhibits and 6,000 animals.
And about that dreaded "Farm Show weather" - the crummy coincidence that sees harsh conditions arrive around the same time the exhibition starts? No snow is forecast for Harrisburg for the coming days.
Farm Show: http://bit.ly/UoxAA1