Kimberton Fair returns with fun and a focus on agriculture

Dark skies brighten up the lights on the rides Wednesday night at the Kimberton Fair. Photo by Barry Taglieber

The commotion engulfing the Kimberton Fairgrounds has been hard to miss this week. And it could only signal one thing: The Kimberton Community Fair is here.

The smells of funnel cake and other carnival treats mixed with those of home-baked goods while the sounds of music, games, rides and crowds filled the air.

During the opening ceremony Monday night, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture’s agricultural fair administrator, Barron “Boots” Hetherington, spoke on the importance of the state’s agricultural fairs in promoting its number one industry.

“People always ask me, ‘Well our state’s facing tough times; why should we support the fairs?’” he said. “Well, I like to answer that question with another question: what’s Pennsylvania’s top industry? Anybody know?”

A few people in the audience answered: agriculture.

“Yes, agriculture,” Hetherington continued. “Now, only 2 percent of our population live on farms, but one in seven adults participate in the agriculture industry [in some capacity].

“Know what our second biggest industry is? Tourism. So at the Kimberton Fair, you combine agriculture and tourism,” he said. “That’s a pretty good idea.”

The opening ceremony also included the coronation of the fair queen. The title of 2014 Kimberton Fair Queen went to Owen J. Roberts senior Kaitlin Miller. Phoenixville Area High School student Samantha Gable was the runner-up and Kate McIntyre, of Spring City, named ambassador.

This year’s fair also featured Junior Fair Ambassadors: Pottsgrove Middle School student April Gable, Great Valley Middle School student Sara Hedgin and Schuylkill Elementary student Lindsay Kritzberger.

When the winners of the baking contest were announced, some familiar faces were included among them.

Jenny Huffman, of Malvern, won first prize in the PA Preferred Chocolate Baking Contest for cookies, brownies and bars for the second year in a row. Huffman is also the reigning state champion in the same category, as well as the chocolate cake baking contest.

The win means Huffman will once again compete in Harrisburg at the Pennsylvania Farm Show in January.

“It feels really good because I can’t wait to represent the Kimberton Fair again [in Harrisburg],” Huffman said.

Despite last year’s success, this year Huffman said she “went a whole new route” with her recipe, but declined to give away any of her baking secrets.

“Last year we were just waiting and waiting for the call, and my mom kept saying, ‘Well, we could have done this, or we could have done that,’” she said, explaining how nerve-wracking the wait to find out whether she won was.

Elizabeth Willard took home both first place in the PA Preferred Chocolate Cake Baking competition and best of show in the angel food cake competition.

And Andy Bidwell won best of show in the Blue Ribbon Apple Pie contest for the 11th year straight.

Bidwell, who has yet to take home a ribbon from the Pennsylvania Farm Show for his pie, said he was looking forward to going to Harrisburg to compete again.

Next year, however, Bidwell might have some stiff competition in the apple pie contest, as Willard had a lighthearted warning for her fellow contestant.

“I’m going to bring it next year,” she warned Bidwell with a laugh. “You better watch out!”

Willard’s wins this year were extra impressive due to last minute obstacles that arose.

“My oven actually died last week, so we had to put a rush on getting a new oven for me,” Willard said. “So that was a challenge, too, adjusting to a new oven.”

In spite of some questionable forecasts, weather held out for much of the week, the fair only being interrupted briefly by heavy thundershowers Wednesday night. The rest of the contests, including livestock judging and the Kiddy Pedal Tractor Pull, went off smoothly.