Fair weather smiles on the Unionville Fair and its new features
By J. Chambless
Three Pocopson Elementary School students show off their pumpkin-carving skills on Friday morning. (Photo by Chris Barber)
The 2019 Unionville Community Fair was a gift for the senses, and a magical day out for children and their families.
In this, the fair’s 95th year, the event expanded its entertainment and showed off the charm of its original years. Many of the old favorites were still around -- like corn, hay, cows, pumpkins, needlework, tractors and baking. And just like that homey, autumn feeling in 1924, visitors could still smell that essence of alfalfa and see the baking achievements. Trailing back many years and continuing into the present as well was the annual Harvest Queen Pageant.
But this year held some new surprises and drew large crowds, thanks to Saturday’s cloudless sky and temperatures ranging in the high 70s at the Willowdale Steeplechase grounds in East Marlborough. President Bonnie Musser and her board had revved up their imaginations and carried out new ideas that visitors apparently found attractive. At one point, there were so many people arriving that Musser said she and her staff were wondering if there was any room for one more car.
New this year – and especially popular – was the haunted tent. Its creator and designer, Ed Schultz, constructed room after room of scary scenes paired with spooky music, including a gruesome hospital room and a fox hunt full of skeletons, among other things. It was staffed by high school students from throughout southern Chester County in elaborate, creepy costumes and makeup.
“I’ve been working on it for two straight months and got help in the building from the Technical College High School,” Schultz said.
Another new even this year was the car show. Out on the west field, scores of vintage vehicles were lined up. Fair visitor Vincent Santucci said he was “blown away” by the huge assortment. “There were several other cars shows in the county this weekend, and I’m amazed that there are so many here,” he said.
On Saturday morning, families arrived with their children early and in great numbers. The kids were entranced with the cows, llamas, alpacas and goats.
The word went out to a small group just outside the dairy tent, “There’s a baby calf and it’s lying down over there.” Sure enough, young Bella Smith brought her calf (born in May) and welcomed kids to come and stroke its soft coat.
The goats in their tent were especially responsive and affectionate with the children and prompted the young visitors to reach in and stroke their heads and bodies.
The beer and wine garden was strategically placed near the stage so visitors could imbibe while sitting on bleachers and listening to music.
Toward the end of the day on Saturday, as the events were winding down, the cow milking contest drew spectators for three rounds of contestants competing to see who would coax the most milk into buckets. In the elementary school competition, Unionville Elementary won the milk bucket trophy, and frequent winner Earl Wickersham triumphed in the farmer-celebrity category.
On several occasions during the milking, cows got ornery and kicked over half-filled buckets, prompting groans from the audience and possibly skewing the results.
The general exhibit tent served as an effective center for the fair and held Thursday judging for a wide variety of adult and children’s crafts, baked goods, crops and flowers. The winner of the cake baking contest will proceed to the state farm show in Harrisburg, as will the Harvest Queen, who will compete with queens from other fairs across the state.
In the early days of the farm show, students were given two days off to attend. Now school is in session for the whole show on weekdays, but students in the elementary schools are brought over on buses to experience it.
Musser, who has a good 70 years of Unionville Community Fairs under her belt – many of them as president – credited the dedication of her board, a slew of high-quality vendors and sunny skies early on for what appeared to be a record year.
“We deserved it after years of bad weather,” she said, adding, “I’m smiling from ear to ear.”