PITTSTON TWP. — Joe Pupa III remembers the Northeast Fair began as a small firemen’s picnic in the early 1960s and how a setback to its progress allowed it to expand beyond the township’s original intentions.
“The fire department lost the grounds it was held on,” Pupa said. “There were two choices. They had to make it a lot larger or shut it down.”
The 2016 Northeast Fair takes place June 21-26 on the 42-acre fairgrounds at 20 Freeport Road. The six-day event features more than 1,500 contests, more than 25 amusement rides, more than 40 food vendors, motor sports competitions, ground shows and live music.
A Jenkins Township resident, Pupa has been involved with organizing the fair for about 30 years, and he’s seen it evolve.
“We really load the event with entertainment,” Pupa said. “The board really upped the education segments and the quality and quantity of music.”
Pupa said one of the biggest draws for families is the multitude of ground shows, acts that come to perform for the duration of the fair. This year’s ground shows include hypnotist Ron Diamond, family circus act, Circus Stella and tinsmith Michael Felk.
Returning this year in a bigger way is the Butterfly Encounter.
“People get to learn about butterflies,” Pupa said. “Kids and parents loved that last year, so we doubled the size of it.”
Motor sports competitions are the biggest productions of the week in terms of resources and work involved, he said. This year’s events include championship double figure eight racing, a demolition derby and a monster truck free style.
Live music includes performances by Elvis tribute act Shawn Klush, Pink Talking Fish, Jason Aldean tribute Ultimate Aldean and an original music showcase featuring local acts The Dishonest Fiddlers, Jung Bergo, Dreamers Like Us and Zayre Mountain, among others.
“Opening night will be a big night with Shawn Klush,” Pupa said. “We’re starting off on a big note with a hard opening.”
Entertainment booker Ryan O’Malley, of Pittston, said he’s looking forward to the Aldean tribute, which will cater to the region’s strong country following, the original music showcase, which displays local talent and the return of the cast of Beatlemania.
“The cast of Beatlemania has been with us since before we got certified as a state fair,” O’Malley said. “Their stage show is phenomenal.”
Since being certified as a state fair in 2004, the contests are a large part of the yearly event. Competitions in baking, agriculture, arts and craftmanship are a few of the myriad of categories.
“Winners of certain contests get to advance and compete against winners of other fairs at the Pennsylvania Farm Show,” Pupa said.
With so much to do at the fair and a $10 admission, Pupa said, the cost for a family to spend a night out is “ridiculously” inexpensive.
“All that’s included in your admission,” Pupa said. “We like to say the kids have unlimited income. Once they walk in that gate, everything is paid for except food, beverages and games. I wish I had that when I was a kid.”