From sleek show horses and polished livestock to chocolate cakes and cornbread, Blair and surrounding counties were well represented at the 2010 Pennsylvania Farm Show in Harrisburg.
This year's show saw record attendance, Jean Kummer, spokeswoman for the state Department of Agriculture, said Friday. With the increase of nearly 5,000 parked cars at the show - there is no charge for admission, only parking - Kummer estimated nearly a half million people visited the Farm Show Complex between Jan. 9-16.
"Some days, attendance was up 25 percent over last year," she said. "A few days, it was just really packed with people. It's exciting that that many people were coming in to learn about agriculture."
I can vouch for that. On Jan. 9 and again on Jan. 14, Mirror photographer Patrick Waksmunski and I made the trek to Harrisburg to cover local people who were competing in the farm show.
While the farm show staff provides us with a list of area exhibitors beforehand, meeting up with them is usually a matter of luck.
When we were standing in the press office, overlooking one of the arenas, Patrick noticed one of the men throwing horseshoes was wearing a T-shirt with his name and hometown of Hollidaysburg. Patrick made it to the arena just as Bill Helsel tossed his last two horseshoes to break a tie and win the competition.
Sometimes, other media help. A photographer from The Reading Eagle tipped us off that Tim and Jeneen Awckland of New Paris had won a champion ribbon with one of their draft horses.
There's more to the farm show, though, than horse shows and horseshoes. There's a large food court, where commodity interest groups from the Pennsylvania Vegetable Growers Association to the Pennsylvania Dairymen's Association sell their products. Kummer said food court sales were up 15 percent this year.
Maybe you have no interest in the showmanship and judging of the state's finest Holsteins, but you can't resist milkshakes and fried cheese cubes.
What I love about the farm show is that it's an education in the food production process, from start to finish. The milkshakes, cheese cubes and hamburgers wouldn't be possible without the hay and grains on display. Everything we eat - even if it's processed beyond recognition from its natural form - comes from the farm.
In an age when most of us are far removed from food production, a walk through the farm show can be more enlightening than ever.
The 2011 show is tentatively scheduled for Jan. 8-15. If you eat, it's worth a trip to the capital.