Fair means it's raining in Arundel Showers won't stop pig racing, carnival

September 11, 1997|By Laura Sullivan | Laura Sullivan,SUN STAFF

Under the pelting rumble of rain on the makeshift farmhouse's tin roof, Woodbine sheep farmer John Fleishell pulls at his wet overalls and takes off his hat.

"It rains every year here," he says with a sigh. "If it didn't rain, it wouldn't be the Anne Arundel County Fair."

Fleishell and his daughter Karen herded their prize-winning sheep under cover yesterday afternoon as fair officials scrambled to inspect the rides and set up last-minute booths before the fair opened to the public last night in Crownsville.

Despite the drizzle and forecasts of more rain today and tomorrow, fair sponsors said the event will continue as planned -- pig racing and all.

More than 42,000 people from all over Maryland are expected to visit the fairgrounds off Generals Highway this weekend, with most arriving Sunday.

"Rain or shine, we're open every day," said fair treasurer and publicist Marilyn Holmes.

"We've been going for 45 years nonstop. The only thing that could happen would be that the carnival would shut down for a while."

The Anne Arundel County Fair began in 1952 with far fewer rides and, like many fairs, with a stronger emphasis on farm products and animals.

Some farmers, such as Oscar Grimes of Davidsonville, think the fair defines the country.

"This fair sure has gotten bigger over the years, and more commercial," said Grimes, who has exhibited his tobacco and corn since the fair's inception.

"But they're important just to let the public know that farming is still a noble occupation in Anne Arundel."

In the time-honored tradition, there will be a beauty pageant, which, in keeping with the times, is called a scholarship contest.

There are some strange exhibits, though they are a far cry from the bearded lady. This year, fair-goers can try cryogenically frozen ice cream served in little pellets, along with many obscure household items.

The oversized vegetables, similar to those shown at the first county fair, were a big hit yesterday as fair staff milled about the booths.

Some of the ride operators napped in the game booths while waiting for the rain to stop long enough to screw in the last light bulbs and scrub the rides clean. Jim Young sat under cover with teddy bear prizes in a dart-throwing game booth while he waited for word to set his ride in motion. He runs the Zipper roller coaster, notorious for making its riders queasy.

"I actually rode the Zipper today for the first time in a while. It's certainly not for everybody," Young said.

Pub Date: 9/11/97

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