LEHMAN TWP. — You couldn’t have asked for a fairer day.
The smell of funnel cake and simmering sausage drifted on a cool breeze through the vendor aisles as food sellers braced for the masses soon to break through the gates.
Showing up early to the Luzerne County Fair has its perks. You might spot Jeremy Evans of Bloomsburg, a fifth-generation family business owner who has run his fair-food truck on the side for 10 years, spinning up a warm batch of cotton candy and setting out his hand-dipped candy apples in the quiet before the crowds start swelling.
Evans’ stand, the one with the twirling cotton candy sign on top, is near the main entrance next to the giant ice cream cone stand, which he also runs.
“We’re ready to go,” Evans said, and added confidently that he has enough popcorn and treats to last the five-day festival.
A few stands down, you’ll find Lake-Lehman High School Band girls flitting around the booth they occupy every year, taking orders from their elders and heating the oil to fry potato pancakes.
Diane Lockard, a member of the band’s booster club, said they don’t know how many single potato pancakes they’ve served. Rather, they measure by how many 5-gallon buckets of potato pancake batter they go through. They have 125 gallons of the batter on hand to make the famous fair fare.
“Yeah, we go through a lot of them because we make the best,” Lockard said.
The county fair food stand funds the band’s operations for most of the year, Lockard said.
Other vendors selling multicolored candy corn, lemonade and pizza by the slice lined the the aisles on the way to the fair exhibits. The exhibits hold what the fair’s founder, the Dallas Rotary Club, intended when it formalized the community event 51 years ago.
They wanted a place for the Back Mountain to celebrate the harvest season. What started as a parade through town with Boy Scouts performing Native American dances and high school bands playing their tunes has turned into a robust yearly attraction.
“It’s taken incredible life; it’s grown and prospered,” said state Sen. Lisa Baker, R-Lehman Township, as she spoke during the opening ceremony.
In the cow barn, Tessa Zimmerman, 9, and Kaylie Skovira, 9, were tending to their calves, Daisy and Seven. Seven was named for the markings on her forehead, Zimmerman said.
The two Lehman girls, members of the Yellow Rose 4-H Club, are to display their yearling heifers Friday afternoon. The cows will be judged for their obedience, physical qualities and cleanliness. The two girls seemed a little apprehensive about their debuts, but confident in their efforts so far.
“The hardest part was putting (Daisy) in the trailer to get here,” Skovira said with a laugh.
“This is America at its best,” said motivational speaker Bob Perks of Dallas. “This is where love starts. … This is where the harvest is.”
The forecast calls for sun and warm weather until Monday. If predictions hold out, this will be the first fair to have all-sunny skies since 2000, said fair Chairwoman Brenda Pugh.