The Pennsylvania Farm Show celebrates its 100th year in 2016. What began as a small gathering of agricultural leaders has turned into the largest indoor agricultural exposition in the country. Thousands of cattle, sheep, swine and other farm animals strut their stuff in early January as captivated crowds of young and old savor the sweets and treats and the moos and the baas. Never been? Here are 100 reasons to be at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex and Expo Center January 9-17, 2016. The countdown is on! (And this will just get you started!)
#100-41: The Shopping
“60 spots in a 'Best Of' list just for shopping,” you ask? Yep. They’re everywhere. And some visitors look forward to buying their favorite specialty gear and mementos each year as much as they look forward to the animals. Western Wear. Heavy Duty Farm Equipment. Wineries. Toys. Pajamas. Tools. Furniture. And the list goes on!
And even though we'll get to the Food Court a little later in the list - sorry for the spoiler - we can't forget that they are vendors as well. After all, what's a set of John Deere pajamas if you can't break them in with a nice dusting of powdered sugar from the potato donuts?
#40-31: The Demonstrations and Education Stations
In every arena and every hall, there is action. Farming and agriculture is built on hard work and ingenuity, so it makes sense that skills are highlighted live throughout the events. You've got Lumberjacks (#40), the impressive PA State Police Mounted Drill Team (#39), Cooking Demonstrations (#38-34), Maple Production (#33), Speed Horse demo (#32) and there is always an exciting buzz around the Honey Extraction (#31) demonstration!
#30-21: The Contests
If you want to win the Blue Ribbon for an Apple Pie (#30) here, you can’t just be good. You’ve got to be greater than great. Same goes for Brownies (#29), Thumbprint Cookies (#28), Cheese (#27), Shoofly Pie (#26), and Sticky Buns (#25). Square Dancing (#24) isn’t for the faint of heart, and Tractors (#23) can square dance too!
You simply haven’t lived until you’ve seen the Celebrity Rabbit Hopping (#22) competition. It’s F.U.N. And teams put in some serious training hours for the popular Sheep to Shawl (#21) competition.
#20-11: The Food
Many of you who have been to the Farm Show might argue that “The Food” should be higher on the list. After all, you say, they DO open the Food Court a day early to handle the cult-like demand. Po-TAY-to. Po-TAH-to. We’re both right!
What’s important to remember about the PA Preferred Farm Show Food Court is that it’s not all about the food coma that comes from enjoying the most delicious, hearty and belly-bursting meals and treats imaginable. A portion of the proceeds from your Apple Dumplings (#20), Pulled Pork (#19), Deep Fried Mozzarella Cubes (#18), Maple Cotton Candy (#17), Lamb Stew (#16), Grilled Portabella Sandwiches (#15), Honey Waffles (#14), Batter-Dipped Vegetables (#13), Milkshakes (#12) and the Potato Donuts (#11) goes to programs - many of them youth organizations - that help sustain and advance agricultural initiatives all over the state.
#10-2: The Animals
This writer is partial to the pigs, but for journalistic integrity we'll keep them up here at #10. (Watch out though, they can really build up a head of steam when they're being transferred to the sale or show arena! I speak from a personal, temporary moment of shock at seeing upwards of 10 not-so-little-piggies round the corner at once and rumble by. #FarmShowFirst)
When the Roosters (#9) get to talking, it's pretty intense. Everybody loves a freshly-sheared sheep in a cozy little jacket (#8). Not all Dairy Cows (#7) are Black and White. (Do brown cows make chocolate milk? That's even more of a trick question when you're just a few miles away from Hershey!) The Beef Cows (#6) are pretty massive themselves, and they walk around like they know it! Don't forget the Equine Arena. Draft and Show horses (#5) play a special role in the history and future of agriculture and they are beautiful, majestic animals. Ba-a-a-a. (#4). Rabbits (#3). Pointy-eared rabbits and floppy-eared rabbits. Fast rabbits. Slow rabbits. Baby rabbits and fat rabbits.Rabbits, Rabbits, Rabbits!
And finally, we answer the age old question of "What comes first: The Chicken or the Egg?" Brand new Baby Chicks (#2) hatch each year as crowds peer through the incubator glass or watch the live camera feed. (Yes, I said live feed. It's that cool, people!) So the chicken comes from the egg. Except that egg came from a chicken...so...we lied. We can't answer the question!
#1: The Memories
It’s a little like Vegas. Or the Great Pyramids. And no, we don’t mean Elvis and Pharaohs. We mean that the PA Farm Show is something you can’t describe until you’ve been there and done that. This thing is HUGE. So huge that it takes a year’s worth of logistical blood, sweat and tears from the best agricultural teams in the business to make it fit into a whopping 24 acres of space. To a man, woman, child and farm animal, everyone involved looks forward to this grand agricultural showcase all year long.
For so many families, the PA Farm Show is a tradition. Their kids have grown up looking forward to the cows and the pigs and the honey waffles and the milkshakes. For some of you, this 100th Anniversary may be your first, and we promise it’s worth it.
If you have little ones, resist the urge to snap every picture and focus for a while on the moment they see that massive milk cow up close. The moment they watch a sheep being sheared for show. The moment they see their first rodeo. Take it in. And THEN snap away!
If you have older kids and teens, encourage them to engage in the educational aspect of the show. Learning where our food comes from and how important agriculture is to the state, the nation and the world is priceless.
If you’re coming without kids, sit in on the demonstrations. Talk to the vendors about recipes and growing practices and anything else that comes up. They’re proud of what they do and they love to share. And when it's all said and done, we're all one big Farm Show Family!