Old Fashion Fun

HUGHESVILLE – Hannah Dgien was yelling directions and holding on as her identical twin sister, Sarah, who couldn’t see a thing past the welding helmet over her eyes, steered toward the finish.

“Go faster!” Dgien, of Muncy, yelled as a competing team of youngsters closed the gap between them in the highly anticipated wheelbarrow race at the Lycoming County Fair’s School Day program Tuesday.

The program features a variety of events for school age children to compete in, with the wheelbarrow race being one of the more popular.

The race requires that “drivers” wear a welding mask, or helmet, which has been taped up so that the driver can’t see anything and must rely on the rider’s directions to navigate the course.

Although the Dgien twins did not place in the race they had fun anyway. It was not their signature event, though.

“I look forward to the hula-hoop contest and the egg toss,” Dgien said.

Ben Hepburn has been helping at the program for the last 30 years and says it’s all about old-fashion fun.

“This definitely isn’t Nintendo. This is old-fashion fun and games,” Hepburn said.

Hepburn, along with a score of volunteers, help to set and officiate more than 20 events for the kids to take part in, which can include everything from arm-wrestling to hay bale rolling.

“We just do kids game and try to incorporate different things to promote agriculture,” Hepburn said.

The event has been run for years by the Future Farmers of America Alumni organization. FFA Alumni President Clay Koser is one of the judges for the tractor driving competition.

Koser credits local business owner C.H. Waltz for the success of the competition, which has drivers steer a tractor and a manure spreader through an obstacle course and back to the “barn area,” which is a roped off square they must back the spreader into.

“C.H. Waltz and son always loan the tractor and also donates a gift certificate for the winner,” Koser said. “He’s a major supporter.”

This year’s event did suffer some minor setbacks such as the initial rainy weather.

“Usually we’re dealing with the heat, this is unusual with the rain but every year is different,” Hepburn said.

Another setback was the cancellation of the popular greased pig contest due to a recent outbreak of Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus (PEDV), but the program rolled with the punches and held a ‘piggy-back race,’ where competitors worked as a team to carry each other down a course instead.

For Trey Spring, of Allentown, it’s a fair event he looks forward to every year.

“I like how nice the people are and how it’s a lot of fun. This year I won first in the bean bag toss and took fourth in the arm wrestling competition,” Spring said.

Although place winners in the competitions do win a small monetary prize, usually around $5, the thrill of competition, and the claim to a year’s worth of bragging rights, keeps many coming back year after year.

For some the event still holds special meaning to them even after they are too old to compete.

“My daughter is 20 years old now and she has transitions from competiting at school days to volunteering and helping out,” Koser said. “Which is a big help and great to see.”