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Popcorn Day is part of Gallatin County Fair for 63rd year

  • From left, Emily Rollman, Bronwyn Raven and Leanne Fromm are the 2021 grand marshals of the Popcorn Day parade.

    From left, Emily Rollman, Bronwyn Raven and Leanne Fromm are the 2021 grand marshals of the Popcorn Day parade.
    Courtesy of Gayla Cox

  • The Ridgway Fire Department in the 2019 Popcorn Days parade.

    The Ridgway Fire Department in the 2019 Popcorn Days parade.
    Harrisburg Register file photo

  • Mike Williams is behind the wheel of his John Deere 4020 tractor in a previous parade.

    Mike Williams is behind the wheel of his John Deere 4020 tractor in a previous parade.
    Harrisburg Register file photo

 
By Jeff James
Contributing writer
updated: 9/10/2021 1:41 PM

When the 2020 Gallatin County Fair/Ridgway Popcorn Day was canceled due to COVID-19, some people wondered if they would come back in 2021.

Now, thanks to the hard work of the 2021 Fair Committee, the show is going on. Gayla Cox and the other committee members -- Brian Jones, Tony Cox, Allison Sisk, Tori Wargel, Aaron Rayborn and Lauren Drone -- have put together a whole slew of entertainment and fun for a week of awesome talent and exciting activities.

Gayla Cox said Popcorn Day has been a staple in the community for 63 years, so "something must be going right."

"The community comes together with all our class reunions of many years," Cox added. The carnival rides and especially the parade bring in so many people that the downtown is at full capacity every year.

There are so many volunteers for both Popcorn Day and the county fair, Cox added, they are a living example of how a community can come together and accomplish such a big event.

The county fair culminates Friday, Saturday and Sunday with the crowning of Miss Gallatin County Fair, the Popcorn Day parade, live music and much more.

Ridgway Popcorn Day is the second Saturday in September, and a special part of the Gallatin County Fair. This year is the 63rd year since the first Popcorn Day was held in April 12, 1958 -- a celebration of the Blevins Popcorn Co. plant that packaged Pops-Rite popcorn and gave Ridgway its identity as "Popcorn Capital of the World."

The official host of the 1958 event was Bill Robbins, the then-plant manager for the Blevins Popcorn Co. Mayor Tyler Gauen issued a proclamation proclaiming Popcorn Day in Ridgway. Ilene Collins from Ridgway won the first Popcorn Day Queen contest by using her superior popping skills. Special greetings flowed into Ridgway from dignitaries like Vice President Richard Nixon, Illinois Gov. William Stratton, and U.S. Sens. Paul Douglas and Everett Dirksen, along with Hollywood stars Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis.

Fast forward to 2021, where the Gallatin County Fair theme is "Puttin on the Ritz," and this year's Popcorn Day parade Grand Marshals are Leanne Fromm, Emily Rollman and Bronwyn Raben, who are being honored for the great work they have done on previous parades.

Three young women from Gallatin County are in friendly competition for the title of Miss Gallatin County Fair Queen, who will be crowned in a ceremony beginning at 7 p.m. on Friday. Contestants are:

• Jayln Ellison, sponsored by Southern Truss Co. of Harrisburg, and the 18-year-old daughter of Johnny and Callie Ellison of Junction.
• Bailey Respondek, sponsored by Double B Excavating in Shawneetown, and the 16-year-old daughter of Keith and Brandi Respondek of Shawneetown.
• Paisley Chappell, sponsored by New Life Christian Center in Equality, and the 16-year-old daughter of Derek and Casey Chappell of Equality.

As part of the pageant, Kinady Jayne Smith will sing between the Communication Skills competition and Evening Gown competition.

Weekend schedule of events
Friday, Sept. 10
5 p.m. Kiddie Korner & Crafts open
5 p.m. Carnival open (arm band, $20)
7 p.m. Miss Gallatin County Fair pageant on stage
At conclusion of pageant, Jake Golden performs on stage

Saturday, Sept. 11
9:30 a.m. Helicopter rides, until dusk at St. Joseph Field
9:30 a.m. Kiddie parade
10 a.m. Kiddie Corner & Crafts open
10 a.m. Frog jumping, popcorn eating contest and bubble gum blowing contest
10:30 a.m. Cake walk
11 a.m.-10 p.m. Carnival open (arm band, $20)
1 p.m. Popcorn Day parade
3-5 p.m. The band Southern Grit on stage
4 p.m. Parade Awards handed out from the stage
5 p.m. Western horse show, at fairgrounds
6-7:30 p.m. The band Audio Pilots on stage.
8-9 p.m. The band The Springs on stage.
9:30 p.m. The band Blackford Creek on stage

Sunday, Sept. 12
Western horse show, at fairgrounds.