Press Release also available as Word
Doc | PDF
"THE GRANGE FAIR: AN AMERICAN TRADITION"
PROFILES A COLORFUL SLICE OF RURAL AMERICANA
For much of the last century, Grange fairs were an
important part of rural agricultural life, an opportunity
for isolated farm families to gather to exchange information,
showcase livestock and socialize. Many evolved into
large encampments that became extended reunions going
for days or a week at a time.
"THE GRANGE FAIR: AN AMERICAN TRADITION,"
broadcast on ___________ at ___________ , chronicles
a vanishing piece of Americana, one of the last remaining
agricultural encampment Grange fairs in the country.
Now in it’s 131st year, the week-long Centre County
Grange Fair in Pennsylvania boasts a small city of almost
a thousand residential tents and a fleet of 1,300 recreational
vehicles. Thousands of people attend to join family
reunions, enjoy the midway and watch the competitions.
Produced by Penn State Public Broadcasting, the 90-minute
documentary features some of the families who spend
months preparing for this unique American phenomena.
Originally conceived in 1874 as a one-day picnic to
introduce rural farmers and their families to the Grange
organization, the Centre County Grange Fair grew to
become, as did other Grange fairs, a social highlight
of the year and main point of information exchange for
rural agricultural communities.
In addition to possessing some of the trappings of
a conventional county fair — agricultural vendors,
livestock and produce competitions, food, rides and
live performances, the Centre County Grange Fair boasts
a small city of nearly one thousand 14-foot square,
military-style canvas platform tents. Reserved and highly
prized, many tent sites have been in the same family
since tents were introduced to the fair in 1888. Families
bring everything including the kitchen sink to set up
residence for a week. New participants wishing to tent
at the fair must sign up for the waiting list. The current
list has over 600 names on it; on average only two tent
spaces open per year.
For many participants, the fair and its competitions
mark the culmination of months of work raising animals,
growing produce, cooking and baking. "THE GRANGE
FAIR: AN AMERICAN TRADITION" captures the stories
of adolescents and adults, and the drama of those final
nail-biting moments in which a year of work goes before
The stories from the Grange Fair touch young and old.
Michelle Carbonara is a nine-year-old whose registered
Holstein wins the blue ribbon in a final dramatic moment.
Alisha McClellan, a 14-year old from a small town, wakes
up before sunrise to feed the pigs she keeps at a friend’s
farm before going to school. She has spent the year
raising them for competition at the Grange Fair. Ruth
Wolf, at 86, has missed the fair only once in her entire
life and that was to have a baby. Joe Hartle wakes to
tend to his dairy cows before going off to a meeting
to help plan the fair, as he has for the last 50 years.
Seventy-year-old Martha Dietrich stays up nights baking
fresh creations for the days of competition -- her husband
shuttling her goods to the fair each morning.
The competition for tent design results in fantasy
castles and toyshops surrounding a square of canvas.
Betsy Forsythe is laboring in her garage to complete
her massive tent design by fair time. She’s often
taken second place in the tent contest, but this may
be her year to win.
"THE GRANGE FAIR: AN AMERICAN TRADITION"
is a production of Penn State Public Broadcasting.
Partial funding is from the Pennsylvania State Association
of County Fairs and the Pennsylvania Public Television
Network (PPTN). Producer/director is Joe Myers.
Co-writer and editor is Greg Feinberg. Co-executive
producers are Tracy Vosburgh and Tom Keiter and original
music is by Ted McCloseky. The documentary won a Silver
Screen Award in the 38th Annual International Film and
Video Festival and a Bronze Award in the 2004 Telly
Awards. The program is distributed by PBS Plus.
Other nationally-distributed programs on PBS produced
by Penn State Public Broadcasting include "Small
Ball: A Little League Story" and the first series
of "Legendary Lighthouses." Penn State Public
Broadcasting is licensed to The Pennsylvania State University.
Contact for PSPB: