Fairgoers say goodbye to a bittersweet summer

September 08, 1992|By Douglas Birch | Douglas Birch,Staff Writer

Labor Day crowds at the Maryland State Fair wrung a few last laughs out of a vacation season that some say they will remember for its soggy weather and sluggish economy.

"People are wondering if things are going to get better. They wonder: Is this economy going to pick up?" said Marshall Boyd, 38, of Washington, as he stood near the roaring, blinking midway on the fair's final day.

"I think most people would hope that this whole economic situation of layoffs and companies downsizing would somehow reverse itself," he said. His sons, Brendan, 8, and Merrill, 3, fidgeted, impatient to get back to rides like the Tilt-A-Whirl, the Scrambler or the Gravitron.

"I've been fortunate," said Mr. Boyd, who works for a major insurance company. "I've never lost a job in a recession. But I know a lot of people who have to sell their homes, who have to move to another part of the country, who suddenly have to look for work. I think a lot of other people are just saying they're happy they got through this summer without any major disruption of their lives."

Roger and Loretta Wright, who operate the Maryland-Carrolton dairy farm in Westminster, said when they recall the summer of 1992, they will remember the unseasonably cool, wet weather in August and early September, which has made it hard to cut and bale hay.

"You need three days to make good hay," said Mr. Wright, 30, who had a herd of 42 Holsteins. "It seems they give you two days, and the third day it rains."

But he and his wife, 33, have some good memories, too. This is the summer, they noted with pride, that two of their cows were pictured on the cover of Sire Power, a catalog selling bull semen used to artificially inseminate cows.

Some people were too busy to look back. "I can't talk to you now, maybe later" snapped a bettor at the fairgrounds racetrack who was wearing sunglasses and a White Sox cap and was anxiously heading for the rail to watch the next race.

He held two fingers about a quarter of an inch apart. "I got beat by this much for a whole lot of money in the first race," he said.

Some had better luck. "It's been a real nice summer," said Ed Wallace, 33, of Baltimore, after winning a blue-eyed toy dog by pummeling plastic rodents at the Whack-A-Mole game. Mr. Wallace, wearing overalls and dark glasses, flashed a glittering smile: His front teeth have gold caps, one etched with a bubbling martini glass and the other with the initial "E."

For Ed of course.

Mr. Wallace, who works for the city recreation department and moonlights as a security guard, said he will remember this as the summer he took a day trip to Washington with his daughter and volunteered to teach the retarded.

"But this is the end of it," he said. "As you can see, I'm trying to do my best to end it with a bang."

Summer wasn't so bad for Bob Brown of Columbia, 52, either. Mr. Brown left a corporate job a few years ago to breed Arabian horses full-time. This summer, he said, he was busy showing animals in Richmond and Roanoke, Va., and in Delaware. He has one regret. He worked so hard, he said, that "the golf game really suffered."

Summer wasn't so kind to Tom Young of Hampden, who works at the city's Pepsi bottling plant and decided to pay his bills rather than take a vacation.

"There wasn't a whole lot we did this summer, period," said Mr. Young, 39, as he and Patricia Angel, 33, headed for a pizza stand.

Over at the Exhibition Hall, the summer of 1992 may be remembered for a distinct chill in the air. By accident, the Maryland Democratic Party's booth was placed directly across the aisle from the booth of 2nd District Rep. Helen Delich Bentley, the state's leading Republican.

Democratic and Republican volunteers registered voters while handing out bumper stickers and buttons. "I don't even pay any attention to them; they're just there. And they don't pay any attention to us," John Disney, a member of the Baltimore County Democratic Central Committee, said of his rivals.

Marjorie Griffin of Towson, a volunteer in the Bentley booth, said on the first day of the fair, "I came in and I said 'hi,' and there was no response." Eventually, she said, there was a partial thaw in relations, with some novice Democratic volunteers sheepishly asking how to register or re-register voters.

On the midway, diesel engines rumbled, bells rang, barkers taunted and the bingo caller droned out his requiem for the summer: "M-39, M-31, I-16, I-22." Bingo players perched on stools facing a mound of owl lamps, red plastic gasoline jugs, Batman wastebaskets, toy tanks and glassware.

Smoke drifted over the fairgrounds from the pit-beef stands, mixing with the aroma of Italian sausage, cotton candy and an occasional whiff of the livestock barns. A couple gawked at a whole pig roasting over a fire. Hornets buzzed around the powdered sugar on a table next to a funnel-cake trailer.

During the 10-day fair, the Maryland State Bar Association sponsored a series of mock trials in a yellow-and-white striped tent near the fair's sheep, goat and swine building.

Yesterday afternoon, a near-capacity crowd listened to the slightly racy testimony of an actress portraying a woman who charged that her boss sexually harassed her.

Maxwell Mosner, general manager of the Maryland State Fair and Agricultural Society Inc., said the downpour Sunday quenched all hopes of meeting or beating the fair's 1990 attendance record of 618,998.

He estimated yesterday afternoon that attendance would be between 530,000 and 540,000, about what it was in 1988.

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