About 50 years ago, the first musical acts were hired to perform at the Lebanon Area Fair.

The first entertainers to perform at the fair back then were Al Shade and Shorty Long, a pair of singers who were fairly well known back in their day, according to Dana Lape, entertainment chairman for the 2022 fair.

“Shorty Long has been gone a long time,” he told LebTown. But country singer Al Shade is still around, albeit in his 90s – and he’s singing again this year at the fair.

“He will be the oldest singer actor ever to sing at a Pennsylvania state fair. He’s 94 years old,” Lape said. “That’s a pretty big deal.”

Al Shade

Shade lives in Myerstown, and over the years he’s performed on stage with the likes of Dolly Parton, June Carter Cash, Willie Nelson and Loretta Lynn. He even sang at the Grand Ole Opry with his late wife Jean, whom he had met at a Reading talent show. They married in 1955 and stayed together until her death in 2017.

Over the years, Shade has penned a number of well-regarded songs, some about Potter County and one about the infamous accident at Three Mile Island. He’s also been a constant presence on local radio since the 1950s.

He will perform with his daughter Debbie at 3:30 p.m. July 26 at the pavilion stage.

“That’s a kicker, to have him back again after all these years,” Lape said.

But there’s also some younger entertainment on the schedule this year, he said, including some with roots at the fair.

Crystal Bomgardner

For instance, he said, Crystal Bomgardner – who was last year’s Lebanon County Dairy Princess and this year’s state runner-up – is singing at 7 p.m. July 23 at the pavilion. Addi Grace, who launched her singing career at the Lebanon Fair talent show, will perform at the pavilion at 4 p.m. July 28.

Addi Grace

And on the main stage, former talent show winner Jess Zimmerman will front her own country-rock band, which has recorded in Nashville and performed along the East Coast all the way to Florida.

The Jess Zimmerman Band will begin its concert at 7 p.m. on July 29.

“It’s pretty cool, the talent that comes out of Lebanon,” Lape said.

All told, Lape said, the fair this year features “22 music acts in eight days.” Music will be provided on two stages: the main stage and the new pavilion stage in the midway, he said.

“You can’t beat it, it’s the best music in central Pennsylvania,” he said. “You can’t beat the entertainment you’re going to get at the Lebanon Fair.”

More than music

Lape himself is a bit of a Lebanon fair icon, having started going more than 50 years ago when he father ran a dog show there.

He joined the fair board in 1998, when he took over running the chicken show, he said. He stepped into the entertainment role a year later.

A chicken.

There’s more than just music when it comes to entertainment at the fair, Lape said. This year, he noted, “we have a brand new petting zoo.”

The usual zoo wasn’t able to make it this year, Lape explained. Fortunately, he said, Lebanon was able to book the All American Petting Zoo instead.

“They have a lot of variety, with different animals, and camel rides,” he said.

Also on the schedule are Areli Equine Entertainment, a rodeo-style trick show, and John Cassidy, a variety juggler, comedian and magician. Lape noted that the talent show has been moved to Monday evening, instead of its usual Friday evening slot, so as not to conflict with livestock auction.

John Cassidy will perform magic this year at the Lebanon Area Fair.

Below are some musical highlights from the 2022 schedule. Check out the full entertainment schedule online.

July 23
Dusty Aleman, 4 p.m. (pavilion)
Crystal Bomgardner, 7 p.m. (pavilion)
Pentagon, 7 p.m. (main stage)

July 24
Dean-O, 11:00 AM (pavilion)
Alex Cooke, 4 p.m. (pavilion)
Corina Rose, 7 p.m. (pavilion)
Dave Kelly Band, 7 p.m. (main stage)

July 25
Talent Show, 7 p.m. (pavilion)
Uptown Band, 7 p.m. (main stage)

July 26
Al & Debbie Shade Show, 3 p.m. (main stage)
Josh Squared Band, 7 p.m. (main stage)
Mockingbird, 7 p.m. (pavilion)

July 27
Matt Miskie, 4 p.m. (pavilion)
DMC Dou, 7 p.m. (pavilion)
Smooth Like Clyde, 7 p.m. (main stage)

July 28
Addi Grace, 4 p.m. (pavilion)
Country Line Dancing with DJ Chicken Nugget, 7 p.m. (pavilion)
Sapphire – ’80s, 7 p.m. (main stage)

July 29
Katie Rubino, 4 p.m. (pavilion)
The Jess Zimmerman Band, 7 p.m. (main stage)
Sounds of Charles LEE, 7 p.m. (pavilion)

July 30
Damaskus Road Band, 7 p.m. (pavilion)
Flamin’ Dick & the Hot Rods, 7 p.m. (main stage)


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Tom Knapp

Tom has been a professional journalist for nearly four decades. In his spare time, he plays fiddle with the Irish band Fire in the Glen, and he reviews music, books and movies for Rambles.NET. He lives with his wife, Michelle, and has four children: Vinnie, Molly, Annabelle and Wolf.