County fair’s soft open features harness racing, dinner

MARK NANCE/Sun-Gazette Top, Matter of Lindy, with driver Cory Kreiser, left, holds the lead over Explosive C Four, with Eric Neal and other horses in the Harness Racing during first day of the Lycoming County Fair Wednesday.

HUGHESVILLE — The Lycoming County Fair Association calls it an evening of harness racing and dinner.

Also known as the “soft opening,” for the fair, the harness racing was the official first activity of the fair, which continues tonight and runs through July 21.

Watching the horse races from the shade of the grandstands, Eric Wenner and Alayna Thomas were together sharing a bag of Cactus taters slathered in cheese sauce.

“It’s the first time I have ever seen harness racing,” Wenner, of Williamsport, said.

The first group decked in an array of colors swept by on the first leg of the half-mile circuit.

On the final lap, one racer closed in on the leader dressed in Kentucky University blue and white.

The people in the audience hunched forward, including a family dressed in traditional Mennonite clothes.

The track announcer sat in the grandstands holding a microphone accompanied by a spotter with binoculars.

After the first race was complete, a tractor pulling a water tank sprayed down the track for the next race.

In between, Dana and Galla, performed lively Polka music on the Clyde G. Kiess Memorial Stage.

Jim Doebler, of Muncy Valley, brought his children and grandchildren to the fair but came specifically to see the harness racing.

The harness racing brought not just senior citizens but young adults and children.

The total purse of $77,000 for the two days of racing is something else, said Rocky Reed, fair president.

Reed was spending the night walking the newly paved inner track handing out new stickers for children.

The stickers signify the wearer has been to the fair and reveal the new $4 general admission fee and that those age 12 and under have free admission.

The admission has gone from $6 to $4, Reed said. And there is no admission for those 12.

“You want a sticker,” Reed said to parents of the children as they walked by.

Among the cheerful workers at the fair is Dixie McCoy, of Watsontown.

McCoy is assistant to the president and on Wednesday she was busy checking on just about everything imaginable.

McCoy checked in on one of the buildings where judges were reviewing cakes and baked goods.

She also handed out the round stickers for the children and others to wear.

The fair is marking its 148th year, having opening in 1870.

Today is the official start of the fair with the grand fireworks show put on Sky Shooters at around 9:30 p.m.