Did you know Spotlight PA is a nonprofit? Learn more about our nonpartisan journalism »
Skip to main content
Main content

Pa.'s state fair is hiding in plain sight

Plus, name that Pennsylvania slogan.

June 10, 2022
Inside this edition: Fair rounds, Made in America, arachno pets, no-hit trip, top news, weekend wonderland, and name that Pennsylvania slogan. 

Without googling it, what is Pennsylvania's state slogan? 

(We'll have a real stumper in this space each week. You'll find the answer at the bottom, but don't miss all the good stuff in between.)

» One thing worth knowing: Bad Bunny and Tyler, The Creator will headline this year's Made in America festival on Labor Day Weekend at Philly's Ben Franklin Parkway. Find the roster here

» One thing worth reading: Spotted lanternflies are hatching again and lots of Pennsylvanians are going all scorched earth in the name of nature. But The Atlantic asks of our running war: What is it good for? 
» One idea worth considering: Tarantulas are actually super chill and ideal pets for college students, Pitt News columnist Jessica Snyder says. As a bonus, you get "scary dog privilege" without the dog prices.

» One place worth pinning: The one-block stretch of Filbert Street that runs through Philly's Reading Terminal Market is getting a makeover with festivals and outdoor dining in mind, Billy Penn reports.

» One thing worth watching: Sunday marks 52 years since Pirates pitcher Dock Ellis threw a no-hitter on a mixture of LSD and amphetamines. Ellis eventually told his story and James Blagden brought it to life.

» COVID-19 UPDATE: Keep up with our coronavirus tracker, or find where to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

» Pa.'s broadband definition hasn’t changed in nearly 20 years

» Candidates of color say Pa. hurdles go beyond political maps

» GOP lawmakers change tune on spending Pa.'s surplus

» Join a virtual Q&A on Pa.'s uneven medical marijuana rules

» Push wants more state control over outside election cash

There are maybe three states in the country without a state fair to call their own. Somehow Pennsylvania, land of “America’s First Fair,” is one of them.

Or is it?

While internet searches only confirm our spot in the outlier’s club with Connecticut and Rhode Island, state officials told PA Local that Pennsylvania actually does have a state fair and has for 106 years.


It’s the Pennsylvania Farm Show, they offered, an annual event that’s held indoors in January.  

Naturally, this inspired some quibbling. But Merriam-Webster’s definition of “fair” says nothing about summertime or the outdoors or the Tiger King aesthetics, graying hair metal bands, and throwing-star vendors I have come to associate with my cherished county circuit. 

What’s more, the state’s Department of Agriculture registered the phrase “Pennsylvania State Fair” in 2018 as both a fictitious name and trademark, bringing the claim one step closer to being at least quasi-official.

“The department’s discussions are not to change the name of the PA Farm Show but to provide the PA Farm Show the opportunity to be branded as Pennsylvania’s state fair,” a spokesperson clarified by email.

Pennsylvania has 108 county and municipal fairs left. Eleven have gone the way of the dinosaur: The Allegheny County Fair, Pike County Fair, and Philadelphia County Fair are among them. 

Those that remain also recognize the power of branding.

In 2019, York’s fair, billed as the oldest in the nation, changed its name to “York State Fair,” prompting some pushback from semantical hardliners, like myself. 

“We get the occasional comment that ‘York is not a state,’” Marketing and Communications Director Montgomery Stambaugh told PA Local. 

Before the name change, Stambaugh said fair officials did some research and found more than 60 counterparts across the country with “state” in their name. Of them, only half, give or take, were completely funded or operated by a state government or state agency.

(For what it’s worth, Pennsylvania fairs received roughly $3.5 million in state support last year.)

There were also a handful of similar city-state combos: Bangor State Fair and Greater Baton Rouge State Fair, for example.

It’s unclear how or if the “state” distinction impacts attendance or the kinds of performers and events a fair is able to attract. (The latter is a pay-to-play enterprise, so to speak, and York moved its fair up by two months when it changed its name, adding another variable.) 

It is clear, however, that there are few rules around name changes like it. 

“We were informed that we could call our fair whatever name we liked as long as we did not claim to be the Pennsylvania State Fair,” Stambaugh added. “There was no real process, and it literally took a couple of hours at the most to complete the phone or email conversations.”

So, what do you think? Is the Pennsylvania Farm Show a fair or a wintertime expo? What makes a fair a fair? What’s your favorite county fair in Pennsylvania? Which ones will you hit this summer? Tell us here.

Colin Deppen, Spotlight PA

Ashley Hodder's Love in the Clouds mural in Pittsburgh's Allentown neighborhood. Photo by yours truly. Send us your Pennsylvania pics by email, use #PAGems on IG, or tag @spotlightpennsylvania

» Saturday, June 11: Catch a retrospective of late street artist Danny Devine's work and plenty of artistic tributes at a free Pittsburgh gallery show, previewed and raved about by City Paper.

» Saturday, June 11: Rage with the machines and play Victorian games in Bethlehem at the National Museum of Industrial History's recreation of the 1876 World's Fair. Admission is $15 for adults. 

» Saturday, June 11: Celebrate our state flower at the State Laurel Festival in Wellsboro. See the Grand Canyon while you're at it. 

» Saturday, June 11: The humble dumpling reigns supreme at the Edwardsville Pierogi Festival and cook-off. 

» Sunday, June 12: See what Pennsylvania filmmakers can do with 48 hours and a prompt at Vidjam 2022 in Harrisburg. Tickets here

» Sunday, June 12: Push your pedals at State College's first Pride alleycat bicycle race — a bike race/scavenger hunt. Register here.

» Monday, June 13: Grab your horn, oboe, bassoon, or drumsticks and join a band: the Munhall Community Band, specifically.
Pennsylvania's official state slogan is "Pursue Your Happiness."

The tagline was adopted in 2016, replacing "The State of Independence," which won a statewide naming contest in 2004. 

Before that: "Memories Last a Lifetime," the grammatically suspect "You've Got a Friend in Pennsylvania," and "America Starts Here."

The Don-Draper-has-a-brilliant-idea-while-meditating quality of our current slogan was lost on the most practical among us.

"It's been changed quite a bit," Brand Grant of Pringle told WNEP. "In my opinion, we have other stuff we should spend the money on ..."

Now there's a slogan.

Thanks for reading PA Local! We'll see you back here next week. But first ... send us your feedback. What did you like? What didn't you like? What do you want to see more of? Or, tell us your secret food recipes!
Spotlight PA is an independent, non-partisan newsroom powered by The Philadelphia Inquirer in partnership with PennLive/The Patriot-News, TribLIVE/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and WITF Public Media.

Copyright © Spotlight PA / The Philadelphia Inquirer, All rights reserved.

Spotlight PA
225 Market St., Suite 502A
Harrisburg, PA 17101

You're receiving this email because you subscribed to PA Post, which has combined with Spotlight PA to create Pennsylvania's largest statewide newsroom dedicated to accountability journalism.

You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list.