Middletown Grange Fair regulars return this week

Organizing the Middletown Grange Fair is like running a small town for a week.

Approximately 60,000 people will visit the fairgrounds in Wrightstown as it opens from Aug. 17 through 21, according to estimates from organizers.

“You have to have all the things a town would,” Scott Dengler said, mentioning water, sewage, police, emergency medical services and other entities necessary for the event. “It’s quite an undertaking.”

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Dengler is one of a team of three directors that includes Amber McKenney and Roy Vanderwyk. His responsibilities include overseeing the logistics of all the equipment needed, “moving things where they need to be,” and taking care of security.

He’s been involved for over 30 years, beginning when he was in his teens. Apparently, that trend is common among those who work on the fair.

McKenney has been helping out since she was 5 years old, assisting her grandmother, who organized vendor maps. Now, at 82 years old, her grandmother helps her.

It’s the end of almost a year’s worth of work for this crew, but to them, it’s always worth it.

“It’s a tradition,” McKenney said. “I think that there are so few things in the world today that are unchanged. The Grange Fair seems to be one of them.”

It’s definitely a throwback, especially for those who visit from Philadelphia and the more bustling Bucks municipalities. Last year, in total there were about 500 farm animals — everything from pigs and cows to horses and alpacas.

That number is expected to increase this year as poultry returns. Due to an outbreak of Avian Flu in the United States, chickens, ducks and other animals were not allowed at the fair last year.

Also new this year are a couple of food vendors. Alongside traditional fair food like barbecue, funnel cake and ice cream will be Mama’s Meatballs and The Tot Cart, which serves tater tots in various, presumably delicious, ways.

If you’re not there for the animals or the food, there are some interesting entertainment options. Johnny Counterfit is an impersonator who does takes on Johnny Cash, other country singers and comedians. There will be a performance by the Dancing Diggers. 

The show takes on elements of choreographed dancing and synchronized swimming, except with backhoes. It’s a graceful display of mechanized movement, as vehicles that weigh tons work through their routine.

Other attractions of interest are the tiny pig races, talent show, craft shopping and carnival rides.

Among vendors are community organizations, nonprofits, businesses and government officials. The Newtown Township Police Department will have a community outreach booth as well.

There is no charge for admission, but parking is $10 per car, not person. Parking is overseen by volunteers at Newtown and Lingohocken fire companies. Dengler said that each will receive $15,000 from the proceeds for helping.

Now in its 68th year, the fair recalls a time before housing subdivisions and big box shopping centers, when Bucks County was comprised mostly of farms and wide-open spaces. It’s also a testament to how the agriculture industry has survived in Bucks: real family farmers show animals and crops they raised on their own farms.

“It’s a step back to the way things were,” McKenney said. “The core is people and relationships and work ethic.”  

The Middletown Grange Fair takes place on Aug. 17 through 21 at 576 Penns Park Road in Wrightstown. Admission is $10 per carload. For information and schedules, visit www.middletowngrangefair.com.

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