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as seen on phillyBurbs.com

Fair weather
No one had to tell me a hurricane was on its way. All I had to do was look at a calendar.

At this time of the year my thoughts drift to the tiny college town of Bloomsburg, some 150 miles northwest of here.

That's because the Bloomsburg Fair - Pennsylvania's largest county fair and one of the biggest in the country - started on Saturday. I lived and worked as a reporter in the rural town of 15,000 for nearly eight years, so I can tell you firsthand that it's a big deal.

Kids gets the week off from the school to work the fair stands. Homeowners rent out their front yards for parking lots. The week-long event draws as many as 100,000 people a day to town.

When the weather is good, that is.

Yet, it wasn't much of a shock to me that forecasters called for Hurricane Isabel to hit Pennsylvania on Friday.

It is, after all, "Fair week."

And as anyone who has ever lived in Central Pennsylvania can tell you, this is the one week out of the year when the weather can really go wonky.

The temperature can plunge into the 50s and it can rain for days on end, then, suddenly, it gets hot and humid.

The townies used to say it's a tradition.

Back in 1997, I decided to put the locals' anecdotes of lousy autumn weather to the test and actually built a database based on weather reports for fair week going back 10 years.

The results proved that there it was either raining or cloudy 71 percent of the time during the week.

Of course, one need only look around the permanent brick buildings on the fairgrounds to know that bad weather and the  Susquehanna River can invade the town with a vengeance. Near the rooftops are two high water marks. One from Hurricane Eloise and the other left by Hurricane Agnes.

That's what I was thinking about when I picked up my parents last week from the airport after they spent two weeks abroad and had little idea the hurricane was coming this way.

My dad once told me he decided to settle in Bucks County because of its temperate climate. While we get the occasional blizzard, cold snap and heat wave here, normally the weather is quite nice.

There's also another added bonus.

As I sped northbound on I-95, my stepmom told my father to quickly look out the side window.

The sun was setting.

Maybe it's the latitude, or the pollution coming from Philly. But the purples, blues, oranges and pinks of the sky at twilight here are simply breathtaking.

The show must go on.

Dave Ralis' Pave The Grass column appears on Mondays. You can send him an e-mail at  or call him at 215-269-5051. To read his previous columns, click here.

Sept. 22, 2003