Beginning in late August in Elizabethtown and continuing through early October in Manheim, fair season remains a time-honored tradition in Lancaster County. While agriculture (and to a large degree, education) is the focus of the fairs, community pride is evidenced through the civic organizations, churches and local businesses that take part.
In New Holland, where the photo seen here was taken, the roots of its fair can be traced to 1927, when five citizens met in August to discuss the feasibility of starting a Farmer’s Day Association that would host a community event dedicated to the area’s agricultural traditions.
The group decided to move forward with the idea and announced public meetings during which plans for what was originally called the Farmer’s Day Exhibit would be revealed. The community-wide support for their efforts was unprecedented. To everyone’s (pleasant) surprise, the show, which was held October 21 and 22, was a hit, as it attracted an estimated 15,000 to 18,000 attendees. According to the fair’s website, the show was deemed to be “the biggest, cleanest and most elaborate affair ever held” in the borough.
Buoyed by a net profit of $217.29, the newly formed association forged ahead and began making plans for 1928. The proposed three-day event would dovetail with the borough’s 200th anniversary. Thanks to the addition of more competitive categories and increased outdoor exhibit spaces, attendance doubled.
The New Holland Farmer’s Day Association went on to receive its charter and was incorporated on May 5, 1933. Over the ensuing years, exhibit categories, competitions and other events – including the always anticipated Spectacle of Bands parade and the highly popular midway – have grown exponentially.
As was pointed out in an article that appeared on Mindy Young’s Farm Fit Living website, rural communities across America are not as fortunate as those in Lancaster County and are finding support for their fairs declining. How can we ensure that doesn’t happen in Lancaster? You can show your support by attending a fair, becoming an exhibitor or by volunteering. Businesses can do so by becoming sponsors.
2023 Fair Dates
- Elizabethtown Fair, est. 1973, August 21-26
- The Denver Fair, est. 1981, September 12-16
- Solanco Fair, est. 1950, September 20-22
- Ephrata Fair, est. 1919, September 26-30
- West Lampeter Community Fair, est. 1924, September 27-29
- New Holland Fair, est. 1927, October 4-7
- Manheim Community Farm Show, est. 1954, October 9-13