When the 39th annual Anne Arundel County Fair opens tomorrow afternoon thousands of people will see the carnival rides, food vendors, games, crafts and hundreds of exhibits and farm animals.
What they won't see are the dedicated volunteers who spend hundreds of hours year-round to pull it together.
Gen Solomon, 72, of Millersville has volunteered at the fair since it first opened in 1952.
She's handled many jobs over the 39 years -- from judging entrants in home arts to working the front office -- but what she likes best about the fair is the people.
"All my friends are here, my loved ones," she said. "I just blossom up when it's fair time."
Charlie Ruby, 66, of Hanover has worked the fair for 31 years.
"I've been treasurer, president, vice president, 4-H president, a board member," said Ruby. "I enjoy it."
Volunteers used words like, "hooked," "addicted," and "in your blood," to describe why they keep coming back to the hot and dusty job of getting the fair set up each year.
Even though the work is hard, the rewards are great, volunteers said.
"It's really rewarding to see so many people enter and be so happy with their ribbons," said Marie Gish of Odenton, who has worked as a volunteer the past 18 years.
"It's a great way for people to get recognition," said John Overstreet of Severn,who with his wife, Fran, has run the farm and garden exhibit for thepast 10 years. "When you enter, it shows someone appreciates your work.
"Last year, we had a doctor from Annapolis. He entered five orsix things (from his garden) and won five ribbons. You would have thought he won the lottery."
Linda Hall, general manager of the fairthis year, said she expects to work at least 12 hours a day for 10 days straight before the fair closes Sunday at 9 p.m.
But she wouldn't have it any other way.
"It's the people. We're all really intoit," she said. "We couldn't do this without these volunteers."
This year, the fair will feature almost 5,000 entrees from 1,400 exhibitors, who will show off their best in sewing, ceramics, painting, baking, home furnishings and needlepoint. They will exhibit their biggest vegetables (so far, this year's biggest pumpkin weighs 132 pounds),prettiest flowers, best livestock, even their finest honey and homemade wine.
Fran Overstreet said over the years she has seen the fair change from one that attracted mostly farmers to one that attracts farmers, suburbanites and urbanites.
"It's mostly suburban people now, with their own little gardens," who enter the farm and garden division, she said.
The fair, which is expected to bring in 50,000 people this year, will feature a concert by country singer Tammy Wynette at 3 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 15. The concert will last about 90 minutesand will be preceded by a performance by Prism, a county band that won the "Battle of the Bands" contest at the Maryland State Fair in Timonium this year.
For the first time, tickets for the concert willbe sold in advance. Tickets are $6, which includes the $4 fair admission. Tickets can be purchased at the fair grounds and five other locations in the county.
Other popular attractions are Saturday's baby contest, the children's pet parade on Sunday and the pie- and watermelon-eating contests both weekend days.
"This has got to be one of the last clean-cut, wholesome things left in the whole world," saidSharon Gertz, an assistant fair manager who has volunteered for the past eight years.
"It's totally family oriented. There's no shootings, no drunks. . . . For our kids, this fairground is like our second home."
Money raised from gate proceeds, space rental for vendorsand a percentage of the midway proceeds goes back into the fairgrounds, said Hall. The site is constantly in need of upgrading, she said.Last year, the fair association netted about $13,000 from gross sales of about $106,000.
4H, FFA EVENTS AT COUNTY FAIR
MONDAY, SEPT. 9
Entry Day -- Entries judged from 4 to 9 p.m.
TUESDAY, SEPT. 10
Livestock accepted between 4 and 8 p.m.
THURSDAY, SEPT. 12
7 p.m. -- 4H and open dairy goat show
FRIDAY, SEPT. 13
7 p.m. -- 4H swine show
SATURDAY, SEPT. 14
9 a.m. -- 4H poultry judgingcontest
10 a.m. to 1 p.m. -- Demonstrations
10 a.m. -- 4H horticulture contest
4H beef show
11:30 -- 4H bicycle safety contest
1 p.m. -- 4H senior consumer judging contest
2 p.m. -- 4H intermediate consumer judging
4H lamb show
3 p.m. -- 4H junior consumer judging contest
4 to 6 p.m. -- Horsemanship contest
7 p.m. -- Livestock sale
SUNDAY, SEPT. 15
1 p.m. -- Garden tractor-driving contest
2 p.m. -- Automotive contest
3 p.m. -- Dog obedience class show
4 p.m. -- Tractor-driving contest
7 p.m. -- Livestock released.
ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY FAIR SCHEDULE OF EVENTS
MONDAY, SEPT. 9
Entry Day -- Exhibits will be accepted
10 a.m. to 7 p.m. -- Entries accepted in China and Ceramics, Farm and Garden, FineArts, Handicrafts, Herbs, Home Arts, Honey and Wine
4 to 9 p.m. -- 4H and Future Farmers of America entries accepted (except Livestock)
TUESDAY, SEPT. 10