The first Shippensburg Community Fair was held July 30 through August 1, 1958 on the West Burd Street parking lot in downtown Shippensburg. The event was a huge success, and among the visitors to the first fair was Pennsylvania Governor George Leader.
The following year, a tract of land along the Possum Hollow Road, southeast of town, was acquired as a fairground, and has remained the location of the Shippensburg Community Fair ever since. The size of the fairgrounds has been enlarged several times through the years as additional neighboring land has been acquired by the fair association. The last available land surrounding our fair has been purchased and we now own a total of around 165 acres, with 100 acres rented to a local farmer. Recent expansion of our fair resulted in relocation of our Horse Show ring and Tractor Pull area.
Originally the fair was one of tents and temporary structures, but through the years, a massive building and general development program has taken place at the fairgrounds. In 1963, the commercial exhibits building was first used. Other buildings have included a two home products buildings, three dairy barns, a general livestock barn, an office, and two restroom buildings with first aid. Other improvements have included a dairy judging ring, enlargement of the office and outdoor stage area, a Horse Show ring with bleacher area, Tractor Pull pad, enlargement of the original home products building, and two walk-in refrigerators. Individual civic and religious organizations have also constructed their own individual food concession areas. The fair operates on 15% of the gross from these now 21 food concessions. Utility improvements have included the installation of water and sewer lines, as well as a program which has resulted in all major electrical lines being subterranean.
The first fair was held only three days. During the second year, the calendar was expanded to five days, and later six days in 1961. In 1964, the tradition of opening the fair with a community vesper service and band concert on Sunday evening was begun.
Other traditional program events of the fair included the annual Shippensburg Community Fair Queen Contest begun in 1958, and the Horse Show first held in 1959. Events first held in 1960 included the Kiddies' Day matinee on Wednesday afternoon, the Kiddies' Day Pet Show, the Saturday antique automobile display, and the Friday evening baked goods auction. The National Baton Twirling Association contest was first held in 1962, and a Fair Parade was held for many years. The Dog Show was first held in 1967 and the traditional Craft Day was first held in 1970. The Craft Show continues to be one of the daytime highlights of our fair.
The fair is also famous for its agricultural displays and events. Such events include the Black and White Holstein Show, first held in 1959 and expanded to become a South Central District Show in 1962. Because of the large number of livestock and dairy exhibited at our fair, we do not have facilities to house the animals all week. For livestock, we bring in the market animals on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday and the breeding animals on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Dairy animals are broken down into mixed breeds Monday and Tuesday and the Holsteins come in Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. Our fair has put great emphasis on youth, which is the future of any fair. The 4-H and FFA have over the years participated in showing and judging both in livestock and dairy.
Hundreds of community-minded individuals have worked to make the Shippensburg Community Fair the largest bi-county fair in Pennsylvania. Our fair is run completely by volunteers. Frank Lerew has been the president of the fair since it first began in 1958. Our fair is always held the last full week of July, and over the years we have experienced a tremendous increase in attendance.
Through the work and dedication of our volunteers, the Shippensburg Community Fair has become the highlight of the summer in the Shippensburg area; an event which all local citizens can be proud of. Last year marked the 50th Anniversary of our fair, and we are now busy planning the 51st annual event. We are very proud of our 50 years of success, and we thank the Shippensburg community for all the years of support!
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