THE GREAT ALLENTOWN FAIR
It all started when Janice Engleman agreed to help a friend.
A friend asked Engleman, of Emmaus, if she would help at the Great Allentown Fair because volunteers were needed.
“She told me if I didn’t like it I didn’t have to come back,” Engleman recalled.
The 2017 fair was Engleman’s 13th as a fair volunteer.
Engleman volunteers with Department 19, the art, photography, crafts and antiques division, in the Agri-Plex exhibit space. Engleman assists Dale Serfass, who heads the division, hang the photographs featured every year after the division is judged. Serfass selects the order of the photographs and braves the ladder. Engleman hands the framed pieces to Serfass.
“We have a system,” Engleman said.
The exhibit takes about 10 hours to hang, Serfass said. Once the exhibit is in place, Engleman and Serfass take turns sitting at the exhibit, chatting with visitors and helping those who entered their pictures for exhibition and their fans and friends find entries. This year’s fair yielded more than 500 entries, Engleman said.
Many of Engleman’s friends, relatives and former co-workers have filed by the photography exhibit area over the years, she said.
An Emmaus native, Engleman has moved only once; one block away from her childhood home but still on Broad Street. That move was in 1957.
Engleman learned to knit, crochet, embroider and sew from her grandmother, who was a seamstress, her mother and her aunt. Engleman specifically remembers helping her aunt prepare yarn destined to be knit into vests for the military. And her skills have earned Engleman prizes from the Great Allentown Fair and sparked a brisk business in baby blankets, christening sets, hats, slippers and dish towels she sells at area craft shows and church bazaars.
Engleman is already booked for four craft shows in November and two in December. Engleman does about a dozen shows each year. She also fulfills special orders.
An avid race fan, Engleman travels to Dover International Speedway and Grandview Speedway, Bechtelsville, on weekends. She always has at least one dish towel in her backpack to work on while at the races, she said.
“That’s my Saturday night out,” she joked.
Among her best known outerwear creations is her “old enough to vote and collect Social Security” scarf. Popular in the 1950s, the scarf folds around the neck in a heart shape and one end slides into a slit in the other end to secure the scarf around the wearer. Engleman learned to make the scarf in junior high school.
“You can’t lose it,” Engleman said.
Engleman volunteers everyday noon to 10 p.m. during fair week. The day after the fair closes, Engleman and Serfass return by 8 a.m. to start removing the pictures from the display boards. They usually finish by 6 p.m.
“Then we have to wait 50 weeks to do it all over,” Engleman said.