I had a brilliant idea yesterday morning while sitting in the living room with the kids and sipping a fresh cup of coffee. I saw someone post something on Facebook about the PA Farm Show so I checked their website to see when it was going on. If there is anyone with any doubts about the agricultural passion of Pennsylvanians, they need only make a trip to the annual PA Farm Show in Harrisburg, PA, to experience the revelation firsthand.
The website for PA Farm Show boasts that it is the “largest indoor agricultural exposition in the country with nearly 6,000 animals, 10,000 competitive exhibits, and 290 commercial exhibits” (italics their emphasis, not mine). This year the show is running from January 7 through January 14. The organizers offer a few ‘Quick Tips’ for visitors to the Farm Show, one of which suggests that the best time to arrive is 9am-noon, as 3:30pm-5:30pm is the busiest block of time during the day.
I underestimated the wisdom of this quick tip.
We arrived in Harrisburg around 1:30pm yesterday (the 7th…the opening day of the show). Traffic was at a crawl. Actually, calling it a crawl is being entirely too generous. It was barely moving. There was an electronic information sign telling us that two of the parking lots were already full and advising us to cross the four lanes of traffic to turn left at the next light for the remaining available parking. This was much easier said than done since the roads were a parking lot. We were in the far right lane and weighed our options. We’d have to hit up a ATM first anyway because we were $6 short of the $10 parking charge (I can’t imagine the amount of money the Farm Show Complex is making just from parking fees), so we turned right at the intersection to go through the drive-thru ATM at PSECU across from the Farm Show. After more minutes of crawling, we saw that both lanes to turn into PSECU were blocked off so we couldn’t get cash anyway. Several more minutes of waiting while State Police directed the madness and we came to a decision: screw the Farm Show.
Parking so far away and having to walk the whole way with the kids to even get to the show didn’t make sense. Now that it’s after the fact I see there is a complimentary shuttle service but we had no idea yesterday. Yes, I missed the butter sculpture. I missed out on Shaffer Venison Farm and a local emu farm. I missed out on a heckuva lotta good food like honey ice cream, lamb stew, and fresh apple cider. But you know what? I preserved my sanity. That, my friends, is priceless.
I would like to go back if I knew it wasn’t so busy. The kids would have fun. I would have fun. Is fighting a crowd like that worth your while or do you prefer not spending your time in a line?
We ended up heading right down Cameron Street to Appalachian Brewing Company. We’ve been there several times before, a few times to eat and once for a Carolina Chocolate Drops show upstairs at the Abbey Bar. We were seated right away but everything moved slower than molasses in January. Our server was nice but seemed preoccupied. The food took a long time to arrive and when it finally did show up it was unimpressive. I ordered a Switchback Burger: A savory burger grilled to your liking and topped with cappicola ham, smoked bacon, caramelized onions, Root Beer BBQ Sauce, and provolone cheese. Sounds awesome, right!? And for $10.50 it should be.
It was bland and boring. The slice of cappicola was lost in the mass of roll. There was barely enough bacon on to even know it was there. I believe the Root Beer BBQ sauce had a nice flavor but there wasn’t enough of it on for me to be certain. The burger wasn’t seasoned at all, and although the medium-rare I requested was more or less accurate, there was absolutely nothing interesting flavor about this burger at all. Mike ordered the meatloaf which was also nondescript and forgettable. The meatloaf tasted more like a burger, dense and thick (although it was seasoned better than my actual burger was). The kids’ cheese pizza had cheese that wasn’t thoroughly melted and was resting on a disc of cardboard. Their grilled cheese sandwich had quite possibly the lowest grade of American cheese I’ve ever tasted. No flavor whatsoever and the awful texture that happens in cheap cheeses when it melts and congeals almost immediately into a waxy waste.
The beer was good. I’d go back again and again for the beer but I won’t come with an appetite again. The last time we ate at Appalachian Brewing Company we had wings, and they were good. I’ll stick with them next time. I had the Pennypacker Porter on draught and on cask. I preferred it on cask because it was smoother and not as cold.
The day wasn’t what we expected but it was an adventure and a fun day away from the house. The kids were happy, even sitting for a long time in a restaurant. When the offspring are happy, Mama is happy.(Note: The photos were taken at Lake Tobias Park, not at the PA Farm Show. But they’re animals, so it’ll work.)