Fairest fair of all

Helen Twining Kadlec

September 04, 1992|By Helen Twining Kadlec

WHAT is it that draws me every year to the Maryland State Fair?

The fairgrounds are noisy, hot, crowded, and parking is limited. Midways and carnival rides can be found in communities throughout the state. But the State Fair keeps going on. It's a legacy passed from generation to generation.

The 100-acre site in Timonium is an oasis of agricultural Americana in an urban setting. Even though farming and homemaking methods have changed over the years, here is a place where city children can still come to see live calves and baby pigs, chickens hatching from an incubator or the largest pumpkins in Maryland.

4-H Club members can still experience the thrill of winning a ribbon or trophy in show ring competition for an animal they have raised. Homemakers can vie for prizes in cake making or needle arts or flower arranging. Friends from across the state can meet and socialize over barbecued chicken or homemade ice cream while watching the new farm queen being crowned.

Here's where I first really learned about competition. I was 7, and I assisted my mother with a chicken-cleaning demonstration in the former exhibition hall near the race track. My job was to clean the gizzards in preparation for making chicken gravy. The best demonstrators were awarded prizes for their efforts.

Following in my aunts' footsteps, I exhibited my 4-H Club sewing, baking, canning and flower arranging projects each summer as I grew up on our family farm. The thrill of winning a ribbon and a cash award was the motivation for perfecting my skills. Creativity and superior workmanship were rewarded with the top prizes.

Years later, my four children learned to put into practice the 4-H Club motto, "To Make the Best Better," with their entries at the fair. Hours were spent with their dairy cows, clipping, washing and brushing the animals and trimming and polishing their hoofs in preparation for "Show Day." Intricate maneuvers were practiced in walking the animals around the ring during the judging. Friendly rivalry developed with 4-H members from different counties of the state, expanding their world. They gained recognition and self-esteem for their achievements in other projects -- public speaking, sewing, baking, electronics and arts and crafts.

This year I'm judging baking and canning. With each prize ribbon I place on a jar of pickles or loaf of bread or peach pie, I can anticipate the pride of the exhibitor. This is the heart of the American way of life.

Helen Twining Kadlec writes from Glen Arm.

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