HUGHESVILLE - For many, a trip to the Lycoming County Fair is part of the summer experience. The sweet aroma of funnel cakes, and well, pretty much anything fried, mingled with the farm-fresh smells of animals beckons familiar, warm memories.
But for Ella Fang, this was a totally new experience. Fang is a 24-year-old Penn State Harrisburg student who hails from Shijiazhuang, China, and said she was amazed at the close-knit community she saw in the short time she was at the fair.
"This local area is so connected," Fang said, noting her home city is hectic. "This (the fair) is so neat because the animals are so close, you can touch them. All my life, I've been surrounded by people, people, people, but now I can see animals," she said as she gestured to the rabbits in the bunny barn.
People wandered around the loop of the Lycoming County Fair grounds near the grand stands opening night Friday, taking advantage of the cooler weather as they ate, rode the carnival rides and spent time with family and friends.
"Technology takes you away from what it should be, but here, it's a connection, I can feel it," she said.
Fang was there with her new boyfriend, Zach Soohy, 29, who was born and raised in Hughesville, but now lives in Martinsburg. For Soohy, the fair is part of his milieu, and he grew up helping his grandfather Robert King, who ran the sportsman exhibit with wildlife at the fair for years.
"I trained monkeys to eat peanuts and goats to eat out of your hand," Soohy said.
Now, his favorite part of the fair is the food - and birch beer. He still likes animals, though he no longer trains them.
Adrienne Raichel, 32, of the Poconos, was helping her son Julian Rogai, 8, and his friend Luke Severn, 6, form their own young memories of the fair. The boys' favorite were the pigs and rabbits, particularly one small, fuzzy black bunny with straight-up ears.
"I like him because a lot of my pets are black," Rogai said, although he admitted it's also because the bunny is cute and small.
Severn was looking forward especially to cotton candy, and Raichel was salivating at the thought of sugar waffles.
Stephanie Tempesco, 33, of Williamsport, was there with her family and said she's taken her two daughters and son since they were born. Tempesco prefers to go on the fair's opening night since it's less crowded. They'll come back again when all the animals arrived.
Her daughter Khyleigh, 15, likes the horses best, while Cortney, 16, prefers the cows. Meanwhile, Jayden, 7, definitely likes the floppy-eared bunnies.
Stacey and Chad Losell of DuBoistown have come to the fair since they were young, and 35 years later, now bring their daughter. At 14, she's more interested in rides than things cute and furry, and was off with her friends on rides while mom and dad took a break on a bench. The Losells appreciate that admission includes rides. They always look forward to the fantastic fair food, such as the crisp honey sugar waffles and refreshing Hawaiian shaved ice.