An hour into the opening of the 113th Maryland State Fair yesterday, 7-year-old Jamie Hogan couldn't stop smiling.
She was the fair's first blue ribbon winner.
The Kingsville youngster took top honors at the fair's first exhibition -- the children's horse fitting and showing, which began at 8:30 a.m. She won in the under-age-8 category, named Best of Show among six entries.
Contestants had to groom their horses with about six brushes. Horses' hoofs also had to be cleaned and polished. When it was done, contestants lined up in the middle of the Horse Show Ring and trotted their horses before the judge.
By 9:30 a.m., Jamie, No. 23, had pinned a blue ribbon on the black mane of Quaker Caper, her part Welsh, part Arabian horse.
"We kept telling her, 'Don't expect a ribbon. We're just here to have fun, and just go out there to do your best,' " said Jamie's mother, Barbara Hogan.
Jamie remembered her mother's words but also her own motto: Believe in yourself.
She had only a little time to stand by her horse for family pictures. She needed to change from her white shirt and blue-jean skirt into formal riding attire for her next event. The walk and trot contest began at 10:30 a.m. and the jumping competition at 1 p.m.
As Jamie and fellow equestrians went through their day of competition, others flocked to the annual fair at Timonium to see the animals, eat the food or hop on a midway ride. By 7 p.m., about 42,000 had entered the fair's gates, said spokeswoman Edie M. Bernier.
"I'm going to try to enjoy this day as much as possible," said Laura Ruiz-Soto, 10. The Greenbelt fifth-grader began her day at the 4-H Animal World, spending time with a llama, rabbits and chicks.
Many fairgoers prefer to concentrate on the farm animals that will be judged through the week. This year, fair officials are passing out fliers titled "You Be The Judge," explaining how livestock is rated and defining agricultural terms. In the dairy cow contest, for instance, judges look for animals that are tall and long with udders large enough to produce milk but easily adaptable to milking machines.
Dr. Franklin D. Schales was using a different set of criteria as he judged more than 91 classes of vegetables yesterday.
"Everyone likes to grow tomatoes," said the vegetable specialist from the University of Maryland College of Agriculture. "The really tough ones to judge are the round-globe types because there are as many as 20 entries."
And some fairgoers prefer the games and rides. "It was awesome," said 13-year-old Cody Lamont of Hanover, Pa., who rode the fair's newest ride, "The Ring of Fire." "You're like trapped in this little car, and you keep going upside down," said young Cody.
The fair runs through Labor Day at the Timonium Fairgrounds. Horse and livestock shows open at 8 a.m. and the demonstration and exhibition halls at 10 a.m. The midway opens at 11 a.m. on weekends and at noon on weekdays.