Crowds again filled the Kutztown fairgrounds for Dutch food, live music, animals, crafts, competitions and fairground rides in Kutztown.
“The visitors to the fair are out in force,” Kutztown Fair Manager Ginger Schappell reported Saturday afternoon on the final day of the fair. “The number of visits to our portals has increased considerably this year. The youngsters were enthusiastic about showing off their farm animals.
The 151st Annual Kutztown Fair ran daily from August 8-13 and concluded with Children’s Day.
“For 151 years, the fair has been a great place for the community to come together, with friends and family,” Schappell said.
While the pandemic canceled the 2020 fair, the Kutztown fair celebrated “150 years of fabulous fairs” in 2021.
“In terms of pandemic cancellations, we only canceled one year which was 2020. In 2021 and this year, the pandemic had a positive effect on our show. This is our second consecutive show since the pandemic,” Schappell said.
This year, the 151-year tradition of fairs continued in the fairgrounds.
“We had great weather this year, exciting mid-show acts, a variety of rides, great music both on the main stage and in the beer garden,” Schappell said.
Circus Incredible, made up of 2nd and 7th generation circus performers, provided in-between acts. Lyric Wallenda of the “World Famous Wallenda” family displayed an aerial artistry of grace, beauty and strength while Simon Arestov from Moscow, Russia wowed audiences of all ages with his acrobatics and his breathtaking balance. Visit www.circusincredible.com and https://www.facebook.com/Circusincredible/ for more information.
Entertainment on the main stage included Nite Flyte performing a range of songs from the Beatles to Bon Jovi and the Rehrig Brothers Band performing classic country music while Cramer Brothers Band played their traditional country style, as well as the Smith Compound Band, the Nashville Music Company Band and Pure Country.
Local artist, the Hannah Violet Trio also made an appearance in the beer garden, as well as local band the Zeptones and Junior’s Grades Band.
Throughout the week, cattle, goats, sheep and pigs competed for the Grand Champion. On August 10, the animals dressed up for the fair, along with their handlers, for the Animal Mardi Gras Show in the show ring. This year, the Celebrity Animal Obstacle Course featured local celebrities leading their pets through an obstacle course in the show ring.
In addition to rides, games, nightly entertainment, agricultural education, Dutch fries and birch beer, and exhibits, this year’s fair featured contests. Competitors participated in throwing hay bales, which can weigh between 40 and 90 pounds each. Plus, there were the popular pedal tractor pulls, plus a pie, egg toss, and iced tea contest. The fun continued with DJ Chicken Nugget leading a line dance.
Children’s day included ring toss, scavenger hunt, gum blowing, water balloon and sack race.
Agricultural education included exhibits and demonstrations such as sheep shearing, wool spinning, and wool weaving.
“New this year, we held horse-drawn carriage rides, ax throwing and a home-brew beer contest. We also held a cornhole competition for novice and competitive players,” Schappell said.
Steiner Artisan Farm horse-drawn carriages offered a ride from the Whiteoak Street gate to the Kutztown Historical Society, located across from the original Kutztown fairgrounds.
History behind the Kutztown Fair
The Kutztown Historical Society gave a history lecture to learn about the history of the Kutztown Fair.
According to Brendan Strasser of the Kutztown Area Historical Society, the beginnings of the Kutztown Fair date back beyond 1870 when the first official Kutztown Fair was held in the borough of Kutztown.
“In the early 1810s, 1820s, there were a lot of veterans here who liked nothing better than to get together every year, raise a few beers, point a few guns at targets, sometimes point at each other maybe (to which there was a few laughs from the audience) and have a good time,” Strasser said for coverage of the 150th Kutztown Fair.
These events became known as Battalion Days and became quite prominent in the 1820s and 1830s.
“They became very loud and rowdy affairs lasting several days, to the point that finally the town council at the time of the civil war decided that they had to stop; it caused too much chaos and the city council eventually banned the holding of these battalion days,” Strasser said.
These events drew a lot of people to town, and people from outlying areas used to come to Kutztown for a few days of celebration every year, he said. Even though Battalion Days had been banned, people still showed up.
In 1871, the Kutztown Fair was organized and run by the Keystone Agricultural and Horticultural Society. The first fairs were held on the south side of Kutztown between Whiteoak and Baldy streets. The original fairgrounds included exhibit buildings, a one-third mile horse racing track, and a nearby hotel.
“That fair really gave birth to the idea of the Kutztown fairs that we’ve come to understand, where hundreds, if not thousands, of people come to town each year,” Strasser said.
The fairgrounds ultimately proved too small, so the Society sought other lands but did not have the members to support. The fair ended in 1903 and the fairgrounds were sold for building land, he said.
“The town, without a fair in 1904, began to hustle for a new Kutztown fair,” Strasser said.
Jacob Esser was the main person behind the impetus to create the Kutztown Fair Association in 1905 and became president of the Fair Association. Esser was a household name to most Kutztown residents, as the Essers existed when the town was founded in 1850. Jacob was a third-generation proprietor and editor of the Kutztown Patriot and owner of the publishing company.
The Fair Association quickly sold inventory and secured 32 acres of land which is the current location of the Kutztown Fairgrounds. Later about 20 more acres were added.
From 1905 to the present, a fair has been held almost every year, except, of course, in 2020.