Its carnival rides and attractions (which still cover the largest part of the fairgrounds).
And especially its agricultural heritage, with livestock and farm displays.
You might call those things the Heart of the Fair -- and in fact the fair is saying just that this year, and using the heart symbol in its social media campaigns.
"If you run into fair President
"He reminds everyone to visit the west end of the fairgrounds where the farm animals and blue ribbon exhibits abound. And if they miss going, he politely chides them that they've missed the fair."
Truth is, each year brings subtle changes to the fair, from types of rides to new foods and attractions.
The fair has all of those this year, and even its dates represent a bit of a change: With
There also are bigger changes.
Gone is the fair's Music Tent, which for more than 30 years was the fairgrounds' largest free performance stage -- with shows by
Instead, the fair is collaborating with the
The fair also has increased its admission price, though there are plenty of opportunities to get in free or for reduced price.
But as the fair starts its 162nd year, its heart is still beating strong.
Here is a look at returning favorites and what's new.
Admission cost is up
The fair is raising its admission price for the first time since 2007, from
Brosious says the fair's costs of operation and maintaining its historic buildings has continued to rise, as have property taxes and other expenses. And last year's fair was hampered by bad weather.
"Our buildings are of a different era, and trying to maintain a facility as old as the farmer's market and grandstand is not easy," Brosious says. "There's no way I want to see that cupola ever disappear."
Other comparable fairs charge
Admission to Tuesday's preview night also will no longer be free. The cost will be
Kids are still free and the age has been raised from 11 to 12. And there are ways to get into the fair free or for a reduced rate.
Through Tuesday, admission tickets are
Because the opening ceremonies in recent years have been at the Music Tent, they'll shift to the Farmarama Tent and be held earlier, at
New fair queen
Music tent/Maingate merge
The Music Tent was know as the
Brosious says officials felt it was time to marry the Music Tent entertainment with the increased offerings at the Maingate. She says people like to have drinks with their music, and the set up next to the Music Tent didn't make it simple.
"We felt it was a good time to start something," she says. "It makes sense."
Maingate removed the gated entrance and reconfigured its layout to two outdoor stages and one indoor. Benches and seating have been added, and shows can be moved indoors if it rains.
Maingate's overhead viewing platform makes it "a really cool place to see a show," Brosious says.
More than a dozen performances are scheduled and there is no admission charge.
Perhaps the biggest show will be an after-party following the fair's Motley Crue grandstand concert Wednesday that will feature lead singer
The series kicks off with party-rock cover band UUU playing before and after grandstand headliner Pitbull,
Saturday will have Sinatra singer
Rock band Social Call will play
Maingate also will incorporate late-night offerings such as DJs and acoustic performers.
County music again holds its position as the genre of choice at Allentown Fair, with the third year in a row that half of the six headliners in the grandstand are country artists.
But there is diversity. Opening night features suave Latin rapper Pitbull, who recently topped the charts with his song "Timber" with Kesha and reportedly has a new album coming out in October.
On Wednesday is rowdy veteran rock band Motley Crue, playing its Final Tour after nearly 35 years of hits such as "Girls, Girls Girls" and "
The final grandstand concert
The three heavy-hitting country shows start Thursday with Lady Antebellum, the seven-time-Grammy-Award-winning trio that topped the charts with hits such as "Need You Now," "Just a Kiss" and "American Honey." In just seven years, the group has had 11 Top 10 country hits.
On Friday, country royalty
And Saturday country music up-and-comer
With diversity of acts comes diversity of seating, as well. Tthe grandstand's track-seating arrangement will have more different configurations than ever before in a single year.
Lady Antebellum will have a stage area that thrusts into the crowd and will be surrounded by room for 450 people who have paid for standing tickets. Pitbull and Hayes both will have standing "pit" areas with 1,000 capacities. Tickets for both are selling well, Brosious says.
The track is all seated for Motley Crue and children's show
As of last week, McGraw and Motley Crue were the fair's best-selling shows.
The grandstand will close with the traditional J&J Demolition Derby on
Tickets remain for all shows and are available at the fair box office, through http://www.ticketmaster.com or http://www.allentownfairpa.org, or by calling 610-433-7541. A grandstand ticket purchased in advance of the show includes admission to the fair.
Beer sales back
Beer sales at the grandstand, offered for the first time two years ago and expanded to let patrons take cups to their seats, are back this year, except for the
The only other place at the fair where alcohol will be available is at the Maingate.
Rides and games and food
Powers Great American Midways is operating the midway for the seventh year, and it, too, offers new rides as well as the best of the classics.
Also new ise the
"It has a ton of action to it, but it's also pretty safe for all ages," Janus says.
Both rides have "spectacular LED light package that are great for taking pictures for memories," Janus says. He says Powers' midways are almost 95 percent LED-lit, the standard on new rides and virtually every concession.
"The lights themselves are a show," he says.
Back will be Vortex, a 100-foot-tall thrill ride with a spinning arm that seats eight and accelerates to 60 mph with 3.8-G force. But it's not included in the purchase of an all-ride wristband.
The advance charge for one-day ride wristbands remains
In all, there will be about 40 rides and attractions and about 60 games and food stands.
A new game on the midway will be Prissy's Fishing Hole, in which the player tosses a line to capture toy fish of different sizes that are "weighed" on a scale to determine the prize. It's largely a kid's game, but anyone can play it, Janus says.
There will be about the same number of food concessions as in previous years, with all the standard fair foods: cheesesteaks, sausage sandwiches, lemonade, pizza, cotton candy, funnel cakes and fried dough.
"Pretty much standard staples, everything people seem to enjoy from year to year," Janus says.
Free feature attractions
The headline attraction at
The show has Kunze and his fellow divers plunging from 70 feet into a small pool. One diver even goes down in flames -- literally. Showtimes are 5:30 and
Moving into the space formerly held by the Music Tent will be Matt's Family Jam of
"We want to make sure every area of the fairgrounds has attractions," Brosious says.
Back after a year away is The Elephant Encounter, a close-up educational experience with African and Asian elephants. Set up at the
Other returning favorites are
With the move of Matt's Family Jam, there won't be a "bleacher-type" attraction inside the fair's main entrance off
Another new all-day attraction will be the
Strolling performers include fair mascot Moodonna with one-man-band
The RCN "
Senior Day on Wednesday will kick off at noon with a performance by
There's no Backyard Battle of the Bands this year for the first time in 24 years.
There also won't be a talent or dance contest this year from radio station WAEB or B104.
Shows inside the Agri-Plex have been big draws at the fair, and they'll be back in force this year.
One of the most popular is the
"They're gunning for her," Brosious says. "This is a real competition."
Also popular are cooking and baking contests on the Culinary Stage and demonstrations by local chefs in the Farm to Table Cooking Series. "I don't know anywhere in the
Also back is the popular celebrity grape stomp contest at
There will be interactive exhibits and contests at
Entertainment on the Centennial Stage includes children's and folk singer
Back for a second year is
Just for kids
The Lil' Farm Hands tent near the Agri-Plex lets little ones roll up their sleeves and do fun chores, farm activities and games. New this year will be a life-sized cow that kids (and adults) can "milk."
Also back is the
And the fair again will have the children's Passport to the World of Agriculture, in which kids pick up a passport book at the Agri-Plex and get stamps at 14 sites throughout the fairgrounds and enter completed passports at the Agri-Plex to win prizes.
Agriculture is why the fair was begun 162 years ago. And it's still the reason it's held today.
"The glitz of the midway, the glamour of the concert stage, the gooey goodness of funnel cakes and elephant ears -- who would want to miss all that?" Brosious says. But she says Albert, the fair president, has it right.
"Don't miss visiting with the people who toil in the soil to feed us. They keep the fair's heart beating."
Animal entries for judging this year are up slightly -- there are 362 livestock (swine, cows, sheep, goats and more). Entries in the poultry building also are up, with 534 pigeons, rabbits and cavies and more, Assistant Marketing Director
Back are the fun agricultural activities such as an animal
Don't miss the Bolting Bunnies, in which rabbits race over hurdles and through an obstacle course at
In all, 8,216 items were submitted for display and for blue-ribbon judging in the Agri-Plex -- everything from cake to peaches to quilts and paintings. That number is slightly down from 2013, but the number of exhibitors -- 1,452 -- is an increase of 12 percent over last year, according to fair Agricultural Manager
-- When: Tuesday through
-- How much: Admission is
-- Ride tickets: One-day ride wristbands are
-- Parking: On-site through Tunnel Gate 7 off of
-- Grandstand shows:
-- Tickets for grandstand shows: At the fair box office (no service charge) or ticketmaster.com. Tickets purchased in advance of show date include fair admission.
-- Alcohol: Beer served inside grandstand for all shows except Sunday. Alcohol also available inside the
-- Info: 610-433-7541, http://www.allentownfairpa.org
(c)2014 The Morning Call (Allentown, Pa.)
Visit The Morning Call (Allentown, Pa.) at www.mcall.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services