Settle in for farm fun at the Unionville Fair
By John Chambless
Sure, putting together the Unionville Community Fair requires months of hard work and coordination before the first visitor arrives. But it's all worth it when families can spend the day smelling hay, petting farm animals, dancing to some live music, indulging in some hot dogs and caramel corn, and going home tired and happy.
It's easy to forget how far we've come from our rural roots. Although there's plenty of open space in southern Chester County, the days are gone when most people earned their living from the land. The things that people like about the Unionville Fair every year are the things that used to be called work: Growing the best tomatoes, baking the flakiest pie, building a scarecrow, raising the prize cow, climbing over hay bales. Today, though, such things are novelties.
At the ripe old age of 90, the fair has evolved to keep up with the times, and on Saturday this year, there's a high-tech trailer where youngsters can tackle hands-on science experiments that might just inspire a new generation of scientists.
There's an elegant opening event, as always, and the Denim & Diamonds benefit dinner and auction on Oct. 2 is a chance to dress up and support the fair. Everyone will enjoy a catered buffet dinner, wine and beer from a Chester County winery and brewery, and live music n on the grounds of Landhope Farms at Willowdale.
The biggest hit at the fair for the past four years is the Willowdale Pro Rodeo, which is being held Saturday from 6 to 9 p.m. Sellout crowds love to see champion cowboys – and cowgirls – rope bulls and calves, ride at breakneck speed around obstacles, and compete for points that put the riders on a national stage.
In the barn, fingers are crossed and families are anxious to see how their craft projects and farm goods will fare at the hands of the judges. Bragging rights are on the line for the best mushrooms, corn, hay, tomatoes and much more, which will then be on display all weekend.
Generations of families have enjoyed the unlikely fun of Cow Pie Bingo, which pays off a considerable $1,000 cash. The winner is selected by Cricket the cow, who knows nothing about the crucial role she's playing.
In the Demo Tent, families can find out about the kinds of home skills that used to be a necessary part of rural life, as craftsmen demonstrate their creations throughout the run of the fair. Families can build their own scarecrows on Saturday morning, and kids can pedal for all they're worth in the Kiddie Tractor Pull contest.
All three days, you can dare somebody to try to ride the mechanical bull, or try it yourself to see how you do. A word of advice: The bull always wins.
After the kids get a chance to touch a real live cow, stick around for the Dairy Show on Saturday, when the best animals are paraded for ribbons. Then it's time for the cow-milking contest, during which the crowd discovers who actually knows nothing about milking a cow – such as local politicians and local notables. The loser has to kiss a cow, and there's no way you should miss that.
To give back to next year's fair, you can bid on donated goods from local businesses and artisans on Sunday evening in the Dining Tent, when products and crafts will go to the highest bidder. You just might pick up a bargain to take home as a reminder of the weekend you spent getting to know the old days, up close and personal.
To contact Staff Writer John Chambless, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.