Historical Markers
Pennsylvania Farm Show Historical Marker
Mouse over for marker text

Pennsylvania Farm Show

Hershey/Gettysburg/Dutch Country Region


Marker Location:
In front of Farm Show Complex, Maclay St., Harrisburg

Dedication Date:
January 7, 1991

Behind the Marker

Cattle competition in the main arena
Cattle competition in the main arena
It's the largest indoor agricultural event in the United States: sixteen acres of displays and exhibits all under one roof. The Pennsylvania Farm Show is a week-long celebration of the state's leading industry - agriculture.

Each January 400,000 visitors from across the United States and abroad come to see the best of the state's wide variety of livestock, fruits, vegetables, and other agricultural products.

The fair hosts educational exhibits and meetings, and includes displays of the latest farm equipment. Since 1995, the Pennsylvania Cable Network (PCN) has broadcast events from the Farm Show to its four million viewers.
Champion Light Weight Team pulls a truck.
Pennsylvania State Farm Show Champion Light Weight Team

Today's Pennsylvania Farm Show has its roots in an agricultural fair first organized by the Pennsylvania Agricultural Society in 1851. These fairs were an annual event until the society discontinued them in 1899 in response to mounting complaints from more sedate fair goers about the unseemly entertainments and "unwholesome" carnival side shows that accompanied it. The desire for a state fair, however, did not go away.

In 1916, Pennsylvania Secretary of Agriculture Charles Patton worked with assistant agricultural extension director Ed Hibshman and others to organize a new agricultural fair. In January 1917, the "Pennsylvania Corn, Fruit, Vegetable, Dairy Products, and Wool Show" was held in a farm machinery dealer's building in Harrisburg. Both visitors and the founders of the three-day event judged it a resounding success.

In 1921, the Show presented its first livestock exhibits, which included beef and dairy cattle, horses, sheep, and swine. The first livestock competitions and sales were held at the fair in 1922. The next year poultry exhibits were included for the first time, and the fair was expanded from three days to five. By 1925, the show was attracting 40,000 visitors to sites located all around the city of Harrisburg. The Pennsylvania State Department of Agriculture took over the event in 1925 and the legislature appropriated money for new buildings. Attendance jumped to 150,000 when the new fair ground with its 3,000-seat arena, was opened in 1931. Since that time, the event has been one of the most popular agricultural expositions in the East.
Farm equipment on display (older)
Farm equipment on display (older)

In the decades that followed, the Pennsylvania Farm Show continued to expand, adding participants from 4-H clubs, the Future Farmers of America, Future Homemakers of America, markerthe Grange, State Mounted Police, markerPennsylvania State University's College of Agriculture, and students from various vocational schools. The Fair added a draft horse hitch competition, horse and pony pulling contests, the "sheep to shawl contest," a dairy goat show, apple pie contest, rabbit show, competition for Pennsylvania wines, art exhibition, displays of feed, fertilizer, and seeds, folk dance competition, acres of antique and modern farm machinery, and more. Since 1982 the show has offered non-denominational religious services on opening day for fair goers and exhibitors who would miss church by attending the event.

Today, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture's Farm Show Bureau operates the 60-acre farm show complex that also hosts more than 200 other exhibits and trade shows every year.
Back to Top