Attendance low for Pa. Farm Show’s in-person return, Ag Dept. says | Five for the Weekend

‘We knew attendance by visitors, vendors and exhibitors would be low this year as we navigate the return of a large-scale event in a new era,’ Department of Agriculture spokesperson Shannon Powers said

By: - January 15, 2022 7:25 am

Displays and exhibits fill the halls at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex and Expo Center. (Capital-Star photo by Cassie Miller).

Happy weekend, all.

The 2022 Pennsylvania Farm Show, which returned to Harrisburg this year, following a switch to entirely virtual programming last year, is just about under wraps.

Attendance this year was low compared to pre-pandemic years, with vendors, competitors and guests alike, choosing to forgo the crowds, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture.

“We knew attendance by visitors, vendors and exhibitors would be low this year as we navigate the return of a large-scale event in a new era,” Department of Agriculture spokesperson Shannon Powers told the Capital-Star in an email, adding, “the last in-person Farm Show in 2020 had more than 12,000 competitive exhibitors and this year’s competitive entries are just over 2,200. Commercial vendors and competitive exhibitors have continued to cancel past the first day of the show on Saturday. And, as anticipated, attendance appears to be low.”

Speaking to reporters last week, Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding urged Pennsylvanians to consider the risk before attending this year’s Farm Show.

“Ahead of the show, Secretary Redding encouraged Pennsylvanians to take advantage of the tools available to them to protect against COVID-19 (masks, vaccines, boosters),” Powers said, “but with the understanding that ultimately, they have the choice of whether they feel comfortable attending.”

To mitigate the risk at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex and Expo Center, the department widened aisles to reduce congestion and replaced the building’s HVAC system. 

Additionally, masks, hand sanitizer  were available throughout the building. The Pennsylvania Department of Health also supplied COVID-19 vaccines at this year’s event, but guests were not required to be vaccinated or masked to attend.

“We are glad to see Pennsylvanians exercising their right to choose what’s best for themselves,” Powers told the Capital-Star.

As always, your Top 5 Most-Read Stories of the week start below.

©CeHa – stock.adobe.com

1. With a proposed ban in N.Y., Erie lawmaker invites National Fuel Gas to relocate to Pa.

The centerpiece to a New York climate action plan has some Pennsylvania lawmakers eyeing an opportunity to bring a natural gas company’s headquarters to the commonwealth.

Sen. Dan Laughlin, R-Erie, has plans to formally invite National Fuel Gas to relocate to Erie County, following New York Gov. Kathy Hochul’s backing of a proposed ban on natural gas hookups in new buildings, with state Rep. Ryan Bizzarro, D-Erie, also supporting the move.

“I want to stamp this out and make a statement right now,” Laughlin told the Capital-Star during a Monday phone interview. “Pennsylvania is pro-natural gas, and we’re not going to do these ridiculous mandates like the governor of New York is trying to do.”

The Capitol building in Harrisburg (Capital-Star photo by Sarah Anne Hughes)

2. Pa.’s bitter, chaotic redistricting cycle likely to reach crescendo in court

Squabbling politicians. Competing hearings. Looming deadlines. Litigation, with more on the horizon. And legislative action threatening to rejigger the whole process.

Pennsylvania’s 2021 redistricting cycle has been convoluted and hard to follow. And now that it has bled into 2022, it’s likely that only further court action will clean up the mess.

Each decade, all 50 states must redraw their congressional and legislative districts to match shifting demographics. This year, all also have faced the same census data  delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic and a shift between the Trump and Biden administrations on whether or not to count undocumented immigrants.

But as of this week, 26 states already have passed new congressional maps, according to data journalism website FiveThirtyEight, while Pennsylvania’s Republican-controlled Legislature and Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf have yet to implement new lines.

Pa. House draft map

3. Harrisburg Republicans advance redistricting reform amid map fight

Where years of prodding by citizen activism failed, a month of Republican rage has succeeded in getting the Pennsylvania House to advance a measure to change how the commonwealth draws legislative districts.

In a 15-10 party line vote on Monday morning, the House State Government Committee passed a constitutional amendment to create an 11-person commission of political appointees to draw the state’s 203 House districts and 50 Senate districts — though final approval still falls to legislators.

The proposal has a long way to go to become law — the earliest that could happen is spring 2023. But it’s the latest in a run of constitutional changes from Harrisburg Republicans that could reshuffle the balance of power in favor of the General Assembly.

The vote comes after House Republicans, in particular, have criticized a proposed redraw of the chamber by the state’s current legislative redistricting panel.

Pa. House State Government Chairperson Seth Grove, R-York (Facebook/City & State Pa.).

4. Pennsylvania Republicans are planning a redistricting redo in time for the 2024 election | Opinion

Republicans in Pennsylvania’s House of Representatives are hopping mad about a new redistricting plan that would force some of their members to run against Republican colleagues in redrawn districts. The preliminary plan approved last month by the Legislative Reapportionment Commission (LRC) also threatens to break the lop-sided majority House Republicans have long enjoyed as a direct result of gerrymandered district maps.

Most analysts agree that the LRC’s proposed House map is a major improvement over the current map in just about every way you look at it.

Fulton County Board of Commissioners Chairman Stuart Ulsh, a Republican, testifies during a Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee hearing on Thursday, Sept. 9, 2021.

5. Pa. ACLU files lawsuit over missing financial information in 2020 Fulton County election review

The Pennsylvania chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has asked a court to order officials in Fulton County to release all information requested as part of an open records request related to a third-party review of the 2020 General Election.

The county initially denied the ACLU’s Right-to-Know Law request. After an appeal, the Office of Open Records ruled in the organization’s favor, ordering that the county produce all records related to the election review, carried out in December 2020 by Wake Technology Services, a West Chester-based company with no official experience auditing elections.

In a lawsuit filed Wednesday in Fulton County Court of Common Pleas, the ACLU said some documents requested as part of a Right-to-Know Law request are missing — including financial information for the review.

And that’s the week. See you all back here next week.

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Cassie Miller
Cassie Miller

A native Pennsylvanian, Cassie Miller worked for various publications across the Midstate before joining the team at the Pennsylvania Capital-Star. In her previous roles, she has covered everything from local sports to the financial services industry. Miller has an extensive background in magazine writing, editing and design. She is a graduate of Penn State University where she served as the campus newspaper’s photo editor. She is currently pursuing her master’s degree in professional journalism at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. In addition to her role at the Capital-Star, Miller enjoys working on her independent zines, Dead Air and Infrared. Follow her on Twitter: @Wordsby_CassieM.

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