Capitol reporter Mary Wilson covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.
The Pennsylvania Farm Show is halfway over, and unlike the zoo where I usually head to work in the morning, you're allowed to pet the animals. Below are few slices of life from the show this week
It's a cliché, but you can't leave the Farm Show without trying the food. Whether it's the milkshakes in the food court, or free samples in the marketplace.
Brian Nicklaus was selling Hammond's Pretzels. A bowl of pretzel bits was out, free for the picking. Apparently Nicklaus wasn't worried about people filling up on samples – he said doesn't see too many shameless freeloaders.
"Well, you see people but you don't say it to 'em," he said.
This show is all about agricultural innovation, but vendors have to find inventive ways to keep people from eating without buying.
"I made up a little sign," said Lyle Yost, selling roasted almonds and pecans. "One nut per nut."
Eventually, the smell of candied almonds gives way to a different smell: welcome to the pig sty. Gary Kasbee and his young daughter, Bailey, from Mercer County, stood near a brown and pink pig.
"Oreo is it's name," said Kasbee the elder. His daughter trained the pig for the show room. They were waiting for the pig's show time, right after lunch.
"We take a show stick and we tap 'em on their side so they know which way to go," said Bailey Kasbee. "A wild pig will, like, run away from you."
After the American farmyard staples – pigs, cows, sheep – there's a small corner dedicated to the alpaca, an animal that doesn't exactly pepper the Pennsylvania countryside.
Monica Kline walked into a holding pen with maybe four alpacas. It's hard to see exactly how many; they cluster together and their long, giraffe-like necks almost intertwine. A sign next to the pen asks: Is alpaca farming right for you?
"First you fall in love," said Kline, telling the first story of a trip she took to the Farm Show with her husband years ago to learn more about alpacas.
"Just that face was magnificent," Kline continued. "All of my animals are named after Shakespearean characters."
A Rodrigo. A Viola. And –
"Oh yes, I've had a crazy Ophelia. Yes, as a matter of fact, Ophelia is being born on the video that we're showing right here," said Kline, pointing to a monitor showing an alpaca birth.
Wander around long enough in the underbelly of the Farm Show complex, you run into the people who make the place work. Like Andy Hoescher (HO-shur), from Buffalo. He was walking quickly off the cattle show ring, with a comb hanging out of his pocket.
"Just fittin' cows," said Hoescher. "See how they're all dressed up with glue and stuff? That's what we're doing. Just like a beauty contest."
Hoescher doesn't own any of the cows being shown. He wasn't even staying past show time, he said.
"I'm only here just to dress 'em, I don't do much other than that," said Hoescher. "Just fit 'em and send 'em, and clip 'em. That's it."
That's advice for handling cows, not your kids. Let it be known: Farm Show is not a great place to ditch rambunctious children. State Police Corporal Joe Nolte said most kids are reunited with their parents right away.
"I've done three of those myself this year, where the child is crying missing their mom," said Nolte, "And then: 'Oh, thank god, you found 'em!' I'm like, OK. You know, it's like, within 30 seconds."
Security guards stationed every so often around the complex keep an eye on crowds. Although Rosanne Anderson said she couldn't tell you if there's been a fight or anything beyond her patrol – right outside the large arena.
"This is the only spot I get at, so I don't know," said Anderson, from Harrisburg. She's worked the Farm Show before, and said she quite likes it.
"Normally I'm down where the horses are, when they're bringing the horses in, you know? And the kids are lined up getting ready to compete, and they're all psyched up about entering into the ring and everything -- to me, that's the most exciting thing."
"See, when you work here, you never get to go in," said Anderson. "I never get to go inside. I'm just stuck at the door, giving people directions. And that's my day, and that's my life."
For all those who get to go past the door, there's enough inside to have eyes agog all day – champion squash big enough to be a lethal weapon, an endless selection of leatherwear for sale, cooking exhibits hosted by a chef whose jokes crackle like a stand up comedian's, and a 40-person line for fried cheese cubes.
It'll last through the weekend.
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