The massive annual Pennsylvania Farm Show was canceled as an in-person event on Wednesday because of the pandemic, ending the prospect of hundreds of thousands of people converging on the Harrisburg complex in January.
Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding said the Jan. 9-15 event will be conducted virtually instead, with a theme of “cultivating tomorrow.”
“While this field may lie fallow in January, we are cultivating tomorrow,” Redding said.
Farm Show organizers expect to release more details about the virtual event, which will aim to educate people about the state’s agricultural industry. Competitive events held virtually will not require the purchase of an animal.
“How we keep the threads of the competitiveness there, particularly in our youth programming, is one of the issues we’re working on real time,” Redding said. He said there will be no livestock shows at the Farm Show Complex, but perhaps events can be held in local communities.
The Farm Show bills itself as the country's largest agricultural exposition under a single roof, featuring about 6,000 animals and 10,000 competitive exhibits.
Like an enormous state fair without the rides and carnival barkers, the Farm Show is part professional development for farm families, along with a range of entertainment, from horse shows and tractor pulls to an annual butter sculpture.
The fate of the butter sculpture, which features Pennsylvania themes — last year's had professional sports mascots — remains unclear.
“If there’s interest by the sponsoring organizations to have some virtual butter sculpture, by all means we’re interested in trying to do that,” Redding said.
The Farm Show was dramatically changed for several years during World War II, when much of what is now a 24-acre complex was devoted to war efforts. From 1943 to 1946 there were no exhibits, livestock or competitions.