It's a festival of music and flavors for every taste FLOCKING TO THE FAIR

August 26, 1994|By Mike Giuliano | Mike Giuliano,Special to The Sun

Now in its 113th year, the Maryland State Fair, starting this weekend at the Timonium Fairgrounds, has long acted as an unofficial reminder that the summer is almost over.

Hundreds of thousands of Marylanders will be flocking here in the next 10 days to enjoy a cornucopia whose contents include a 4-H fashion revue, tractor contests, Clydesdale horses, barbershop singing, beeswax candle dipping, prizes for beautiful animals and produce, live bands, spinning and weaving demonstrations, a mouth-watering display of southern Maryland stuffed ham, a dog show, contests for the best sewing machine cover and best SPAM recipe, square dancing and the Cow Palace as the rural yet royal site for the crowning of the next Maryland Farm Queen.

In all honesty, though, not everybody comes for the farm-related activities. Some folks head for the 30 amusement rides lining the midway. Two new rides are "The Ring of Fire" and "The Lost Mine Dark Ride."

Midway mavens may want to take advantage of the "Family Fun Night Ridemania" tonight from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. Fairgoers tonight pay $6 for admission and to get on as many rides as they want (or as their parents will tolerate). There's also a live oldies concert by the Headliners. Because tonight is a preview, only the midway rides, games and food stands will be open. Regular hours and ticket prices start Saturday.

All those rides and all those people having fun add up to a noisy fairgrounds environment, so it's a good thing that at least some of the noise is coming from the live entertainment aiming to please your ears. What with the farm-related displays and demonstrations at the fair, it's not surprising that the concerts include a bit of country music. But at least one of the countrified bands has an expansive sense of what constitutes country music.

Cowboy vs. go-go boots

Ruthie and the Wranglers, performing on Sept. 3 from noon to 2 p.m., plays a broad mix of honky tonk and rockabilly. And the band throws in some novelty tunes of the 1960s, too. Based in Takoma Park, this band has played at such well-regarded venues as Tornado Alley in Wheaton and the Roots Cafe in Baltimore and in what the band's publicity material refers to as "numerous smoky drinking establishments."

Now about those novelty tunes. What is it that inspired the band's leader and vocalist Ruth Logsdon to do such numbers as "Harper Valley PTA," "Town Without Pity" and "Those Boots Are Made for Walking"?

"Those songs are all issue-oriented," explains Ms. Logsdon, and she adds that, like a lot of country ballads, they have strong narratives about hard times and resilient women.

In case you're wondering about her footwear for that Nancy Sinatra tune, Ms. Logsdon says: "I wear cowboy boots, but I don't wear go-go boots."

By mixing the novelty numbers with the more conventional country selections, she hopes audience members will all get into the groove at some point -- even people who insist they don't like country music.

"When you use the 'country' word, an awful lot of people turn their noses up," she says. "Country now has a wider range than ever, but for them it still was a hillbilly image."

Ms. Logsdon is herself no hillbilly. Instead, this 33-year-old musician parlayed her graphics design degree from the Maryland Institute College of Art into her present career as a graphics designer. She designs promotional fliers, business cards and other material for her band.

Equally eclectic are the other band members. They include a Japanese-American female lead guitarist, Aiko Butler, who would stand out in just about any band.

Food and flowers

If listening to such music puts you in a down-home mood, you might as well go whole hog and head over to the pavilions where the state's farmers and craftspeople are showing off their best.

One of the philosophical tenets of those populating the pavilions that food should look as good as it tastes. Another of their beliefs is that it's OK to be hopelessly devoted to a particular food group. With that in mind, a good place to visit is the Maryland Foods Pavilion, which has set aside separate days devoted to pork, beef, eggs, lamb, seafood and dairy. In the same spirit, home hobbyists can visit with the experts in the Home Arts Building, where the demonstrations include flowers, wood carving, needlepoint, rug braiding and bonsai.

Then there's the Farm and Garden Building, where the events even include a honey and wax day.

Somebody who has seen it all around this section of the Fair is Lorraine Gover, superintendent of the fair's farm and garden department. Last year, she kept the books on 1,829 entries from 349 people. These entries ranged from common things grown in most back yards to something as little known as the mangelwurzel, a member of the beet family used for cattle feed.

She knows how much tender loving care goes into growing each entry, and so she has felt sympathy for the overly excited entrants who've been known to drop their prize-worthy cantaloupes on the way to the display table.

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