John Hildreth, of Morris Township, started showing sheep at the Jacktown Fair when he was 9 years old. In high school, he marched with the band in the parade.

This year, at 66 years old, he and his wife, Louise, 59, will be the grand marshals of the parade, at 6:30 p.m. July 16.

“We were participants for a long time and lived in the community all our life,” he said. “We’re happy they picked us. We were surprised and honored.”

Hildreth said he’s been a farmer in Morris Township his whole life. The fair was always a highlight of the summer for him. The Hildreths now have beef cattle and show young calves at the fair each year.

“The fair hasn’t changed, I just got older,” he said. “Everybody’s always friendly up there. It’s just like a big reunion.”

He said as someone who has faithfully watched the parade every year since childhood, it’s an “honor” to headline it this year.

“We usually just sit and watch it, and they throw candy at us,” he said. “We’re going to enjoy it and have a good time.”

He said his children and grandchildren show animals at the fair, and will probably watch the parade this year since he and Louise will be leading it in a horse-drawn carriage.

Marcia Sonneborn, parade organizer, said the Jacktown Fair is the longest continuously running fair in the nation and will be celebrating 154 years.

The fair, sponsored by the Richhill Agricultural Society, will kick off at 10 a.m. July 14 with a worship service, followed by the queen and princess competition at 7 p.m. The fair will continue with food and craft vendors, agricultural shows and carnival rides through July 20.

“The parade is the highlight of the opening day,” Sonneborn said. “It brings a lot of people into the fair.”

The parade will feature 2018’s fair queen, Amber Finch, of Wind Ridge, the 2019 fair princess, Michael Finch of Bristoria, who will be crowned July 14, and the contestants for this year’s fair queen. The parade floats will be categorized into two contests, one for regular floats and one for mini floats, like a child’s wagon, wheelbarrow or cart.

“We wanted to give opportunities for people who didn’t have access to a large truck or trailer,” Sonneborn said.

This year’s theme for the float contests is “There’s no time like Fair time!” Winning floats will receive a cash prize. Any individuals or groups wanting to enter a float in the parade should contact Sonneborn at 724-428-4344 or marciasonne@windstream.net. Date of entry is considered when forming the parade line, Sonneborn said.

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