Here's how it all got started...
The Fair got its start as a small FFA fair organized by Shippensburg High School Agriculture Instructor, Frank Lerew. After the event saw success with students, it was later expanded to include the Shippensburg community. The first Shippensburg Community Fair was held July 30 through August 1, 1958 on the West Burd Street parking lot in downtown Shippensburg. The event was a huge success, and among the visitors to the first fair was Pennsylvania Governor George Leader.
The following year, a tract of land along the Possum Hollow Road, southeast of town, was acquired as a fairground and has remained the location of the Shippensburg Community Fair ever since. The size of the fairgrounds has been enlarged several times through the years as additional neighboring land has been acquired by the fair association. The last available land surrounding our fair has been purchased and we now own a total of approximately 155 acres, with 100 acres rented to a local farmer. Expansion of the fairgrounds resulted in relocation of our horse show ring and tractor pull area in the early 2000s.
Originally the fair was one of tents and temporary structures, but through the years a massive building and general development program has taken place at the fairgrounds. In 1963, the commercial exhibits building was first used. Other structures have included two home products buildings, three dairy barns, a general livestock barn and show area, and office and two restroom buildings with first aid. Other improvements have included a dairy judging ring, enlargement of the office and outdoor stage, a horse show ring with bleacher area, tractor pull pad, and two walk-in refrigerators. Individual civic and religious organizations have also constructed their own individual food concession areas. The fair operates on 15% of the gross from these 21 food concessions. Utility improvements have included the installation of water and sewer lines, as well as significant upgrades to electrical systems. In 2009, the fair opened its newly-constructed food pavilion that provides seating for dozens of fair visitors. In 2015, the Gro-Mar Ring saw the construction of the Tractor Pull/Horse Show announcer's building and public restroom facility. And in 2017, the Fair will hosted the grand opening of it's newly expanded and renovated Fair Office and Information Building.
The first fair was held only three days. During the second year, the schedule was expanded to five days, and later to six days in 1961. In 1964, the tradition of opening the fair with a community vesper service and band concert on Sunday evening commenced, and continues today.
Other traditional program events of the fair included the annual Shippensburg Community Fair Queen Contest begun in 1958 and the Horse Show first held in 1959. Events first held in 1960 included the Kiddies' Day matinee on Wednesday afternoon, the Kiddies' Day Pet Show, the Saturday antique automobile display and the Friday evening baked goods auction. The National Baton Twirling Association contest was first held in 1962 and a Fair Parade was held for many years. The Dog Show was first held in 1967 and the traditional Craft Day began in 1970.
The Shippensburg Community Fair celebrated its 50th Anniversary in 2007 with several major events including a 50th Anniversary Parade, on-stage program featuring 50s group "The Platters" plus several special guests, the return of the antique car and tractor show and more. Many individuals who were previously involved in the planning of the fair were asked to return for the 50th Anniversary and be a part of remembering the history. The organization also published a 50th Anniversary Commemorative Book to highlight the past 50 years. For its 60th anniversary in 2017, the fair unveiled its newly-renovated and expanded office and information building featuring state-of-the-art architecture and technology. An open house event for the new building saw the dedication of the new facility to founder Frank Lerew.
The fair is also famous for its agricultural displays and events. Such events include the Black and White Holstein Show, first held in 1959 and expanded to become the South Central District Show in 1962. Due to the large number of dairy cattle and livestock exhibited at our fair, market animals are shown at the beginning of fair week while breeding animals are shown at the end of the week. Our fair has placed great emphasis on youth exhibitors since this group is the future of any fair. The 4-H and FFA groups have continually participated in showing and judging both livestock and dairy.
Hundreds of community-minded individuals have worked to make the Shippensburg Community Fair the largest bi-county fair in Pennsylvania. Our fair is run completely by volunteers. Frank Lerew served as the founder and president of the fair for its first 50 years. Mr. Lerew passed away in November 2016, but his legacy and memory live on in the Fair. Following Frank's death, Richard Wyrick serveed as president for 10 years and served on the Fair Board for more than 50 years. Richard passed away in December 2017, and the board elected Jeff Craig as president. Jeff and his father Wayne have had a long history with the organization serving on various committees and officer positions. The Shippensburg Community Fair is always held the last full week in July. Over the years we have experienced a tremendous growth in attendance.
Through the work and dedication of our generous volunteers, the Shippensburg Community Fair has become the highlight of the summer in the Shippensburg area; an event which all local citizens and businesses can be proud of. We are busy year-round planning for the next fair and we thank the Shippensburg community for all the years of continued support!