Indiana, PA - Indiana County

Oxen expected to pull in crowd as new attraction at county fair

by on August 18, 2014 10:59 AM

It’s a safe bet that when land was cleared to make the first farm fields in Indiana County nearly 250 years ago, teams of oxen did much of the heavy lifting.

So it’s appropriate those early beasts of burden get some time in the spotlight at the Indiana County Fair, which celebrates all things agricultural in the county. The 152nd edition of the fair opens Saturday.

“Pound for pound, they’re as a strong as a (draft) horse,” said Heather Howard, who along with a friend will bring three teams of oxen to next week’s fair for a series of demonstrations and mini-history lessons on the use of oxen, the original “tractors” for America’s first farmers.

Howard’s milking shorthorn oxen weigh 1,400 pounds each and were added to her Acme, Fayette County, farm three years ago as a hobby. They haul round bales of hay for the farm’s draft horses and skid logs. They also occasionally participate in parades and in January were part of a demonstration at the Pennsylvania Farm Show in Harrisburg.

While at the fair Wednesday through Saturday, Howard’s oxen will also show their ability to negotiate an obstacle course, she said.

Also new for this year’s fair is a kids’ variety show described as a “live musical, magical imagination adventure.”

Musician, songwriter and children’s entertainer Mike Zaffuto, of Brookville, said he wrote songs with and for his children when they were young, and he used those songs in creating “The Rock & Roll Pet Store Kids Show” that centers on an imaginary pet store.

The multiple half-hour shows Monday through Saturday of fair week will blend music, magic, puppets and live animals. And the kids in the audience will be transformed from spectators to performers, too, Zaffuto said.

Rounding out the eight-day schedule of fair attractions are time-tested favorites: tractor pulls, ranging from the pedal models powered by 5-year-olds to the limited pro series pulling machines; pets and farm animals and their young owners in judging competitions; two afternoons of harness racing; a demolition derby; amusement rides Monday through Saturday; a family aerial act; hundreds of high school musicians and cheerleaders exhibiting their talents; about 60 food vendors to satisfy nearly every craving; and dozens of other displays, exhibits and performances.

There will also be plenty of opportunities for fairgoers to showcase their talents, either on the Community Stage or in events like sawing logs, pitching horseshows and chugging milk.

Admission will be $8, except on the first Saturday when there will be a $5 grandstand admission, and Sunday when admission is free.

Admission is also free until 2 p.m. Monday through Friday and until 10 a.m. on the second Saturday.

Seniors, age 65 and over, and military veterans will be admitted free Wednesday.

And parking is free.

A complete schedule of events can be found here.

PHOTO: The Indiana County Fair Queen will be crowned Sunday. From left are contestant Amber Stewart, of Blairsville, with 2013 queen Amanda Brubaker and 2013 alternate fair queen Emily Vojtek, of Penn Run, also a contestant this year. The Indiana County Fair Queen contest is sponsored by W.G. Satterlee & Sons. (James J. Nestor/Gazette photo)

Randy Wells has been a reporter and staff writer at The Indiana Gazette since 1988. His regular assignments include coverage of the Indiana County commissioners, Indiana Borough council and the Marion Center Area School District. His email address is
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