WESTMINSTER -- Mandy made it to the fair.
Amanda Gail "Mandy" Kent smiled as she moved among the exhibits at Carroll County 4-H/FFA Fair, in her motorized wheelchair, on Thursday. Many people stopped to see how she was doing.
"No more speeding," said a state police trooper, with a smile.
4-H friends, who have worked with Mandy for seven years, couldn't resist giving her a gentle hug.
"Easy on the hugs," said the Hampstead teen. "I'm a little sore. I just got more than 50 stitches out yesterday."
Mandy's recuperation from her surgery and her hospital stay conflicted with the fair, a must-attend event on her schedule. She has not missed the event since she joined 4-H, and she has won several ribbons at past fairs.
Surgeons performed spinal surgery on Mandy July 14 at Johns Hopkins Hospital. That operation was Mandy's 22nd since she was born 16 years ago with spina bifida, a congenital defect that can result in partial paralysis.
Her recuperation included daily therapy sessions at the Kennedy-Kreiger Rehabilitation Institute. She has regained some movement in her legs and doctors are optimistic about her progress.
4 "I feel great and I can move my legs," she said.
She said she would gladly tolerate the weeks of "pain and outrageous torture," a nickname the young patients use for physical and occupational therapy. She put her foot down at missing the fair.
That was no problem, said Karen N. Hartlove, recreation therapist, who usually plans one field trip a week for her patients at the institute. She took Mandy up on her suggestion for an outing at the fair.
"It is a perfect place for us," said Ms. Hartlove. "The children get to be outdoors . . . It's accessible, not too crowded and it's all stuff these kids can do."
Among the passengers on the institute's bus to Westminster was Mandy's hospital roommate, 15-year-old Sara Neugebauer of Sykesville, who is recovering from injuries she got in an automobile accident July 2.
"I have lived in Carroll County most of my life, but this is my first time at the fair," Sara said. "Mandy had a good idea. I think I'll come back next year, too."
The visitors' first stop was at Mandy's prize-winning citizenship exhibit -- a poster and display with information on the presidential candidates and sample ballots.
"So far, Clinton is winning among the fair-goers," said Mandy's father, Richard Kent, who entered the exhibit for his daughter.
Judges pinned "champion" ribbons on the exhibit. Mandy proudly explained the meaning of the ribbons and graciously accepted congratulations from her hospital friends. She also won several blue ribbons for her cactus plants.
She said she is looking forward to a homecoming celebration Friday. Before that, she will try out a new pair of knee braces and undergo more "outrageous torture."
"I don't mind," she said.