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Oldtime Fair offers fun for the family

September 17, 2012
By RICHARD SBERNA - Special to the Herald-Star , The Herald-Star

NEW MANCHESTER - The Hancock County Oldtime Fair had something for everyone on Sunday afternoon, the final day of the fair, at Tomlinson Run State Park.

One of the main attractions was the annual Kiss-A-Donkey contest, with the Hancock County commissioners as this year's contestants. Jeff Davis was this year's winner, earning more donations to the fair board than his colleagues and winning the honor of kissing Gracie the donkey.

Davis said he was happy to participate in the event, which helps sustain the fair year after year, though he admitted to being intimidated by the proposition after Gracie initially bared her teeth at him.

"I thought, 'I'm going to back up here a little bit,'" he said.

New to the contest this year was imprisoning the two losing commissioners in the donkey pen, with fairgoers paying to keep them locked behind the gate. They had an ace up their sleeve, however. Del. Randy Swartzmiller, D-Hancock, who was filling in for the absent Dan Greathouse, promised a $5,000 donation to the fair fund from the state, matched by a $5,000 donation from the commissioners, promised by Michael Swartzmiller.

Lisa Virden, president of the fair board, decided that was enough to earn their release. "I let them out early," she said.

Impossible to miss on the midway was the chugging and popping of a 13-horsepower Ball gas engine displayed by Harry Carson of New Cumberland. The engine originally was purchased 112 years ago by his grandfather, also named Harry Carson, for use in the former oil fields on his family's property off Hardins Run Road. According to Carson, the engine ran numerous oil wells daily from 1900 until oil production on the property ceased in 1969. From then, the 4-ton, single-cylinder behemoth sat idle until a 2005 restoration returned it to running order.

Carson's sons, Brian and Mark, helped with the restoration work and kept the engine running smoothly during the fair.

"They're pretty much taking this over," Carson said.

He said younger people tend to be baffled by the engine's workings, but older men who worked in the oil fields generations ago recognize it and stop to reminisce.

Thinking more of the future was 13-year-old Kaylee Moore, a member of the Snazzy Socks 4-H Club, with two pigs, a goat and a rabbit on display. She had won a selection of awards for them, including first place for the rabbit.

Moore also had the distinction of being the only girl participant in the tractor games, for which she claimed a medal with her Kubota tractor.

"We had a lot of fun with it," she said, including tractor hockey and a balloon pop challenge. Asked about her strategy for next year's games, she replied, "I'm going to bring my Kubota back, because it beat all those boys."

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