The Way It All Began
The Ephrata Fair has been a significant part of local history for over ninety years. The annual street fair dates back to 1919 when area businessmen planned and sponsored a one-day celebration recognizing World War I veterans. These events generated revenues for the purchase of the town’s community park.
A farm harvest celebration was added to the fair in 1920 and the entire event was named the Ephrata Farmers Day Fair in 1922. Over the next decade planners added additional days for a total of three days.
The Parade Is Added
Fair organizers officially incorporated as the Ephrata Farmers Day Association in 1932 and added a Parade. Area residents looked forward to the successful October event so much that it was increased to four days.
The Midway Emerges
1930’s fairs included many of the festivities that contemporary fairgoers enjoy today including games and lots of delicious food. Stands were erected on the spot while present day venders set-up portable stands. The American Legion raffled a new car on Saturday evening for years, which kept the midway packed until after midnight. This popular event ended after World War II.
The Fair Expands
The biggest change the fair saw was a move to September to compensate for inclement weather. No more sleet or snow for fairgoers! The number of exhibits such as crafts, baked goods, and produce gradually increased. The parade, now held on Wednesdays, became more commercial with the addition of floats and more out-of-area organizations. It became so large in fact, that formation was moved from Spring Garden Street to Highland Avenue. An official “Kiddies Day” was added and a baby parade replaced a dog parade. A beauty pageant was added and 1954 Miss America Evelyn Ay was one of its winners.
Tent City Is Born!
The Ephrata Farmers Day Fair kept growing and a partial move of farm animals and some exhibits was necessary in the 1960’s. This agricultural area is now known as Tent City. To this day, visitors to Tent City enjoy animal exhibits and the traditional pig chase!
More Rides Added
The fair stayed fairly the same throughout the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s although fairgoers probably noticed the growing number of rides and games. The midway extended from Lake Street to Park Avenue with rides and stands branching out State Street and into area parking and business lots.
Ephrata Farmers Day Association
The Ephrata Farmers Day Association still oversees and coordinates each year’s fair. The group consists of a board of directors and hundreds of volunteers. The event itself spreads over five days and brings tens of thousands of visitors to Ephrata every year. The Ephrata Fair is proud of it’s long history and of being the state’s largest street fair.
Winner In The ‘Best Community Festival’ Contest
In 2008 Central PA Magazine named the Ephrata Fair to their Hot List as one of the Best Community Festivals in central PA and in 2014 Lancaster County Magazine voted the Ephrata Fair as the #1 fair in Lancaster County.