'Fairs feel like fall': Mixed review of the new timing for the York State Fair

Tina Locurto
York Dispatch

York County residents are finally returning to the York State Fair for a week jam-packed with concerts, carnival games and familiar food smells wafting through the stands.

This is the first time the fair is being held in July, following a controversial 2019 decision by the York County Agricultural Society to move its run from September.

Longtime attendees of the fair had opinions of the changes — including Mount Wolf resident Kelley McJunkens, who said she misses the fall event.

“We would probably like it better in the fall,” McJunkens said, standing with her family underneath the grandstand. “Fairs feel like fall.”

On Sunday in York, temperatures averaged just below 90 degrees, according to AccuWeather. For McJunkens and her family, including pregnant niece Lauren, it was a little too hot.

Despite the changes, the family was still happy to be out.

“I’m still glad to come,” McJunkens said. “We didn’t get to do it last year, so it’s still nice to come and get the food.”

For a Sunday afternoon, the York State Fair drew in a large crowd, with many waiting in line for food and games. On Saturday night, the fair was packed, with long lines for several attractions.

York State Fair in West Manchester Township, Sunday, July 25, 2021. Tina Locurto photo.

While the hotter weather was a departure from the York State Fair’s typical season, some farmers enjoyed and welcomed the changes — including farmer Julie Libengoob.

While the heat initially worried Libengoob, the owner of Dover Township-based Whisper Creeks Farm, the weather hasn’t been brutal for her dairy cows.

“It’s almost more convenient,” Libengoob said of the change. “In September the kids have to miss school, so this is a little more convenient. So they’ve been here the whole time helping.”

This is the third time Whisper Creeks Farm has set up at the fair. And while oscillating fans could be found keeping the cows cool on Sunday, Libengoob said cooling fans would have been set up regardless of the time the fair was held.

Jessica Bridges, right, of Hanover, helps her son Tristan Bridges, 2, choose a Pop Its at the Pitman's Tool Supplies stand , manned by Ray Pitman, back left, in Memorial Hall during York State Fair in West Manchester Township, Saturday, July 24, 2021. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Back in 2019, when changes to the fair were first announced, many vendors worried about how the heat would affect cooks behind hot griddles — including Austin Groff, the owner of Dutch Country Hand-rolled Soft Pretzels.

To his surprise, the weather so far hasn’t been bad, Groff said.

“I was worried about the hot weather — that’s what concerned me,” Groff said. “Especially for the older people. But the weather’s been really nice.”

Dutch Country Hand-rolled Soft Pretzels has made an appearance at the York State Fair for 30 years, Groff said. With a booth inside the grandstand, Groff’s team of pretzel-rolling workers have avoided the sun.

York State Fair in West Manchester Township, Sunday, July 25, 2021. Tina Locurto photo.

The York State Fair’s concert lineup has also boosted the number of customers passing through the pretzel shop, a welcome sight for Groff and many other small businesses.

“It’s my favorite event of the year, come to the York Fair,” Groff said. “It’s one of a kind, I’ll tell you that.”

Though weather has been a hot topic of conversation for many York County residents during this year’s fair, attendee Mike Springer had other issues.

The West Manchester Township resident waited about an hour to get inside to see Saturday’s concert — Styx and REO Speedwagon.

Audience members dance to Shania Twain's, "Man! I Feel Like a Woman" before Jake Owen performs at York State Fair in West Manchester Township, Friday, July 23, 2021. Dawn J. Sagert photo

He and hundreds of other concert attendees missed a portion of the concert because of  long lines to get inside the grandstand, he said.

“This year, the lines feel longer than normal,” Springer said. “I can only assume it’s COVID related and there’s protocols in place today.”

This year, only the west gate entrance is open for concert attendees.

“It’s never been this long of a wait to get into the grandstand to see the show,” he added.

York State Fair officials did not immediately return calls Sunday asking about the waits for concertgoers.

Despite the wait, Springer said, he has been enjoying his time at the fair.

“I’m a traditionalist, so I’m used to the old way in September, which is my personal preference,” Springer said. “I understand they’re trying to improve their profitability and productivity so they can continue a wonderful tradition — so I support it and that’s why I’m here.”

— Reach Tina Locurto at tlocurto@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @tina_locurto.