The familiar odor of hay and cow manure hung in the muggy air of the cow palace at the Maryland State Fair in Timonium yesterday, but some might say the real bull was on the other side of the fairgrounds.
Under a large white tent, a stone's throw from the midway, the State Bar Association was staging a mock trial, complete with a real judge, lawyers for the plaintiff and defense, and "witnesses" to a pretend case.
Listening to lawyers presenting their cases and questioning witnesses might seem to be an odd activity for a state fair, but more than 200 people sat still in the hot, humid air under the tent for the 1 1/2 hours it took to try the case, apparently engrossed in the proceedings.
"You have to transport yourself away from the fair atmosphere to the setting of a trial," said Harry Wade, a spectator from Sykesville.
Indeed, if you could shut out the noise of carnival rides and music from the midway, and the collective odors of all manner of frying and barbecuing foods, the setting could pass for a courtroom.
The judge, resplendent in his black robe, sat behind an imposing wooden bench complete with the state seal and a witness box to the side.
The case dealt with a driver being sued for negligence for running over and killing a pedestrian. The key issue was whether the female victim was in the crosswalk at the time of the accident.
Apparently the audience, which acted as jury, agreed with the defense because the spectators voted overwhelmingly in the driver's favor.
"I think it was a pretty good representation of what a jury trial should be," said Mr. Wade. "But the jury was pretty large."
More than 100,000 Marylanders flocked to the fair this weekend, taking advantage of mostly sunny weather and temperatures in the low 80s.
Aside from watching jurisprudence in action, the fair offered the more traditional activities like carnival rides, barbecue, cotton candy, horse racing and livestock displays.
Every state fair needs a queen, and last night Kelly Jean Holland of Pocomoke, in Worcester County, was crowned the 1991 Maryland Farm Queen. She received a $2,000 scholarship and will reign over the rest of the fair festivities.
Earlier, in the cow palace, young 4-H Club members were busily preparing their cattle, goats, sheep and hogs for showings all this week. Orpha and James Brown brought their 9-year-old son, Hassan, into the hall so he could see animals he would not normally encounter in their Baltimore neighborhood of Reservoir Hill.
"I want to show him that kids grow up on farms and they know how to handle these things," said Mrs. Brown. But touring the livestock is also one of her favorite attractions at the fair.
"To see them, you don't realize how pretty they are," she said. "They're pretty animals."
And the smell?
"We've been here so many times, you get used to it," she said. "You don't expect farm animals to smell like perfume."
The livestock judging runs most of this week, with the youngsters competing in different categories according to species, breed and age of their animals.
Many of the young people and their families had just set up housekeeping at the Timonium fairgrounds Saturday night after competing last week in the Montgomery County Fair.
Russell Martin, 18, of Millers in Carroll County, did rather well there last week, collecting a total of $1,100 in prize money. Yesterday, he was settling into what will be home for the next week as he prepares his nine Ayrshire cows for showing.
Home for his cows was a long bed of straw, and Mr. Martin will camp out right next to them for the next couple days. He is not totally without amenities, as his family outfitted him with a cot, lawn chairs, a radio, a cooler and a microwave oven. He spends the day looking after his prized cows, making sure they stay clean and have plenty of bedding straw, cleaning up the manure and manicuring their coats.
"It's more work than fun, but at night everybody runs around and talks," he said. When all the fairgoers go home, a party atmosphere prevails among those who must stay all night to look after the livestock.
"After working on the farm all winter and half the summer, they just come down here and go loose, I guess," Mr. Martin said.
Beverly Frushour, of Thurmont in Frederick County, was also prepared to camp out with her 11-year-old daughter, Jennifer, who will be showing her Jersey calf named "Pickled Peanuts," born in April.
Mrs. Frushour looked comfortable yesterday in her lawn chair, chatting with friends. But she cautioned, with a laugh: "You ought to come back Friday. I'll be all gray and bald."