QUEEN - Opening a refrigerator in the old Queen schoolhouse, Claysburg Farm Show Secretary Violet Key gestured toward a trio of small, yellow carvings.
"There's only a few butter sculptures," she said. "We only have three this year."
The Claysburg Farm Show has shrunk from earlier years, but organizers expressed cautious hope Thursday that it might pull through budget cuts and survive where others have failed.
Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec
Michelle Foor (left) and Ida Forry of Harrisonville look over the entries in the quilt category of the Claysburg Farm Show at the old Queen Grade School on Thursday.
Until a promised funding boost calmed their fears this summer, organizers assumed Claysburg's 82nd annual show would be its last, Key said.
Previous state cuts - set to be partly reversed with $2 million diverted from horse racing grants to farm shows - threatened small fairs across the state, Pennsylvania Fair Fund Administrator Boots Hetherington said.
"Last year was pathetic. They got less than two grand [from the state]," he said in the schoolhouse hallway.
"It was worse than pathetic," Key said. The fair's annual expenses total around $70,000, she noted.
The Claysburg show barely resembles its larger, county-level equivalents: One of at least five agricultural shows in Blair County, the local event doesn't have the sprawling midways and crowded animal auctions that can raise money in Huntingdon or Bedford counties.
Volunteers at the lone 4-H table sold soup and $2 ox roast sandwiches Thursday afternoon while a cluster of children monitored a petting zoo with a few calves and goats.
"It's actually pretty good this year," 13-year-old Alex Figart said before walking to her prize chicken's wire cage.
Still, with fewer children active in agriculture and state funding repeatedly threatened, show organizers have had to rely more than ever on volunteer labor and donations.
At Claysburg's show, which ends on Saturday, there was no entry fee and no parking fee, but in many cases, fair planners statewide have to spring for liability insurance and site rental, Hetherington said.
Continuing overhead combined with reduced funding have already killed at least six shows across the state, he said, including the Morrisons Cove Community Fair.
"Fairs don't steal. They beg, borrow and acquire," Hetherington said.
Walking through the schoolhouse rooms that contained competitive submissions from artwork to vegetables, Key explained how this year brought more empty tables than its predecessors.
In a room with dozens of jars of fruits and preserves, including 11 jars of various sliced pickles, she pointed to an empty rack.
Key said one regular contributor got sick recently while another passed away over the weekend.
"That really hurt our canned goods," she said. "The younger ones today don't bother with this."
Children still appeared active in a few areas, though: In a room full of kids' art, Lego vehicles sat across from a framed drawing of a mustachioed man in a cowboy hat marked "William F. Cody" - that's Buffalo Bill - "Died Jan. 10, 1917."
An air-conditioned room for flower submissions was emptier than in the past, Key admitted, but it remained colorful and fragrant. And the produce competition still outstrips some larger fairs, she said.
Whether the Claysburg Farm Show lasts much longer will depend partly on state funding, Key said, noting that nothing is guaranteed after the next few years.
Standing near a long watermelon bearing a "Best of Show" ribbon, Hetherington invoked a friend's saying to explain that even the smallest of Pennsylvania's 100-plus farm shows offers something of value.
"We have 108 ways to do the same thing differently," he said.