Unionville Community Fair10/04/2021 10:42PM ● By Steven Hoffman
The Unionville Community Fair made a glorious return last weekend, and the autumn favorite did not disappoint folks who had waited the better part of two years for some outdoor fun in the community due to pandemic restrictions.
The weather didn’t disappoint either, with the skies providing constant sunshine and temperatures in the 70s.
Bonnie Musser, the president and lifelong supporter of the Unionville Community Fair and Farm Show, pulled out all the stops for the return of this a 97-year tradition that highlights the crafts, animals and agriculture of southern Chester County.
As the three-day event wound down on Sunday, Musser reported that she was pleased that the only mishap of the whole event was that someone lost a wallet. But it was turned in, so everything turned out pretty much perfect.
Musser was especially pleased that the turnout was significant. The fair is held on the Willowdale Steeplechase property along Street Road in Willowdale. By noon on Saturday, the whole hillside for parking was filled to the edges, with hundreds of people still coming in.
As she looked out over the crowd, Musser explained that estimating the attendance was a little difficult because eager children kept running back and forth between the haunted house and the bull riding and other attractions for repeated visits. In any case, the attendance was good— and everyone was enthusiastic.
The fair started out in 1924 as a corn show called the Unionville Community Farm Production Show. Legend has it that the boys in the future farmers group in the high school brought in their corn after harvest for a display and evaluation. Since then, it has grown from a small gathering in what is now the Unionville Elementary School to a widely known Pennsylvania attraction, drawing visitors from far beyond Unionville. The fair features many different events, vendors and entertainment for all.
The fair opened to the public on Oct. 1, and the day before that the judges had already given out awards to craft, needlework, art and agriculture in the large exhibit barn. The fair queen and her court had likewise been selected. There was a lot of interest in the queen and princess honors, and many entries in the various categories that are judged. Tables and walls were full of contest submissions, and ten girls had competed for the queen and princess honors.
Over at the cake and preserved food section, Wendy Walker, a contest judge, said that she had never seen so many canned items as entries.
At the queen pageant, Claire Rawlins, 16, from Unionville High School, achieved that honor. Lily Barsamian was chosen the princess. Musser said she was very impressed with the knowledge and wisdom shown by the girls during their speeches.
On Saturday the field was opened, and families were strolling the land, enjoying animals, food and displays.
A wide corral called “Giggles and Grins” offered young children the chance to engage in games and event geared to their age group.
The vendors were lined up as well and selling foods for anyone’s taste from sandwiches to ice cream and funnel cake.
Rows of antique vehicles showed up for the car show as owners sat around and casually shared conversations with their friends.
Meanwhile, Master Farmer and former Pennsylvania Secretary of Agriculture Charlie Brosius of West Marlborough provided ongoing upbeat music with his restored calliope.
By far the most inviting feature was the farm animals including cows, goats and alpacas. Children and their parents crowded into and around the animal tents just for a chance to pat one or two of them.
One could hear parents tell children barely old enough to walk, “This is a cow.”
There were also competitions among animals with formal dairy cow and goat judging events.
Excitement grew late on Saturday afternoon for the cow-milking contest, a longtime tradition that invites children, politicians, local farmers and queen pageant contestants to try their hands at milking
The local Unionville-Chadds Ford School District elementary schools competed, with Pocopson School winning. That school was represented by principal Clif Beaver and student Will Simmons. In the adult/queen category, frequent winner Earl Wickersham filled a four-cup jar with milk to continue his reign as champion.
In addition to the animals, food and entertainment, there were robotics and STEM demonstrations, cow pie bingo, scarecrow judging, lip-sync contests, hayrides, a 5K run and a wine and beer garden.
In the midst of restrictions for the COVID-19 pandemic, Musser had the choice of total cancellation in 2020 or finding an alternative. She and her committee came up with organizing three “Tastes of the Fair” – one each in August, September and October on a large yard. These events were smaller than the normal fair, but attracted friends of the event and maintained the spirit throughout the difficult year. Everyone was happy that the Unionville Community Fair was able to stage a full return in 2021 as the 100th anniversary of the event comes one step closer.