Monday, January 19, 2009

Giants and Dwarfs at Pennsylvania Farm Show

One of the largest farm shows in the United States is held in mid-January at the Farm Show Complex and Expo Center in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The huge indoor facility is large by almost any measure. It has two arenas where simultaneous rodeo competitions or livestock demonstrations are held, food halls, new farm equipment displays and much more. There are a number of connecting exhibit halls with over 6000 animals and birds and about 250 commercial exhibits. The Pennsylvania Farm Show is a tradition that began in 1917 and has free admission. The only charge, other than parking and what you purchase, is for the Circuit Rodeo Finals the last few days of the show.

On display in the farm animal competition area were the winners of the best rabbits, roosters, cows and chickens. This is where I first saw the Flemish Giant rabbit. This is a breed that grows up to 21 inches in length and weighs 15-18 pounds. There have been documented Flemish Giants up to 26 pounds. The Giant Chinchilla is another breed of large rabbit on display at the show. These rabbits are so huge they could frighten most small dogs. Adjacent to the giant rabbits were the dwarf rabbits, while smaller than the average garden variety rabbit, they weren't abnormally small.

Aside from the commercial exhibits, animal displays and competitions, the farm fair is known for its food courts. There is fresh trout from Pennsylvania streams, pulled pork, fried cheese, the famous Farm Show baked potatoes, potato donuts, fries, and of course kettle corn and cotton candy. Even if you are not a farmer or agriculture student, this is a fun place to visit. There were exhibits from the Pennsylvania Bee Keepers Association that had a room full of different types of honey, hard wood displays, celebrity cooking demonstrations and life size butter sculptures of a soldier a cow and three children.

Many of the associations that exhibit at the Farm Show use the opportunity to raise awareness and funds for research, scholarships and continuing education. Representatives from the different organizations include; the Pennsylvania Vegetable Growers Association, PA Mushroom Growers Cooperative, PA Maple Syrup Producers Council, PA Livestock Association, PA Cooperative Potato Growers, Pennsylvania Cattlemen's Association, and many more.

One of the overriding themes of the show is education. For kids, the organizers have a creative and fun way to learn and discover more about horses, swine, poultry, dogs, nuts and more. Sign up to be a Farm Show Detective and investigate where milk comes from, how chickens hatch, and how bees help vegetables to grow. Kids (or adults) will follow a map to the eighteen learning stations throughout the show. One of the cool awards (or cold awards) is a year of free ice cream from Turkey Hill.

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