Butter sculpture heralds 100th Pennsylvania Farm Show
HARRISBURG — The unveiling of a life-size butter sculpture Thursday heralded the 100th Pennsylvania Farm Show, which is expected to draw hundreds of thousands of visitors during eight days of livestock judging, rodeos, farm equipment displays and culinary attractions ranging from pulled pork to renowned milkshakes.
The butter sculpture weighs more than a half-ton and depicts a dairy cow and farm family members showing off baby chicks and apple pies.
The show in the sprawling Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex & Expo Center on the outskirts of the state capital opens Saturday and runs through the following Saturday. Admission is free; parking is $15.
Some interesting facts about the farm show:
NEITHER WAR NOR WINTRY WEATHER STOPS THE SHOW
The state-sponsored show has been held annually in Harrisburg since 1917, but its site and scope shifted in the early years because of external events including World War II, says Mary Klaus, a local journalist who recently published a book about the show’s first century.
The early farm shows expanded quickly and were held in multiple buildings in downtown Harrisburg, “like a progressive dinner party,” Klaus said Thursday. But days after the 1929 stock market crash, crews broke ground on the current complex that opened in 1931 and attracted 255,000 visitors.
The show had to be scaled back for several years during the war, reducing it to a series of offsite meetings of agricultural groups while the federal government used the complex to repair warplanes and train mechanics, but it bounced back in 1947. It went on even during the 1996 blizzard that stranded hundreds of visitors.
The present complex covers 24 acres under one roof and the show is billed as the nation’s largest indoor agricultural event. More than 500,000 visitors are anticipated this year.
OUT WITH THE OLD, IN WITH THE NEW
Horses, mules and oxen were the preferred method of hauling heavy farm machinery during the earliest farm shows, but mechanization began to take off in Pennsylvania in the mid-1920s, Klaus said. Today’s modern equipment is larger, with combines 12 feet fall. It also is more expensive: crop farmers may use a $500,000 combine, a $300,000 sprayer and a $250,000 tractor, she said.
EVENTS YOU MIGHT NOT SEE ANYWHERE ELSE
Unusual events on the schedule: Horse-drawn carriage racing. Farm show fashions. A rabbit-hopping contest. Pie-baking contests. A square dance on tractors. An antique tractor pulling contest. Pennsylvania’s greatest whoopie-pie contest. A lumberjack competition. A cow-milking contest.
This story has been corrected to change the number of competitive exhibits to more than 13,000, not 30,000.