Judges of beauty, nibblers of sweets Fun: Blossoms' colors, horses' grace, rides' thrills and foods' tastes -- fair-goers had plenty to choose from.

August 16, 1998|By Del Quentin Wilber | Del Quentin Wilber,SUN STAFF

If there is only one entry in a contest, can it finish second?

Yesterday afternoon, at the 53rd Howard County Fair, several did.

As parents and children streamed toward midway rides and games about noon, two women worked quietly inside an exhibition hall. They walked the aisles between tables covered with plants, inspecting stems and colorful blossoms with critical eyes.

"This one looks bug-eaten," said Alyce Doll, a judge, as she slowly twirled a white flower. "We can't give it first place."

Co-judge Betty Balthis pursed her lips and nodded. The aster's owner received a second-place white ribbon. Like the others whose work was judged yesterday, he or she (the contestants' names are hidden) will learn the flower's fate today, when the hall opens to the public.

Across the fairgrounds, children and adults began competing in eight days of contests, from best apple pie to best Jersey cattle.

It was quiet at about 8 a.m. In one barn, three teen-agers chatted as their friend Amanda Valentine, 16, slumbered, bundled in a black blanket.

A few hundred feet away, a car drove down a gravel road, and a dozen brown-and-white steers mooed, one after another.

'Move over, Prissy!'

At a concrete pen, Holly Connelly, 12, scrubbed her cow, Prissy, and then sprayed with a hose. Prissy yawned and pushed Holly into Molly, a calf.

"Move over, Prissy!" said Holly, dripping wet, as she tried to shove the large, brown cow.

Prissy didn't budge.

A half-hour later, dozens of children were riding horseback, competing in several categories, including western and English.

Suzanne Hishmeh, 9, straddled a white horse, Frosty, who trotted around the ring.

Afterward, she laughed and said she was happy to finish sixth. But Suzanne was a little upset with Frosty, who neighed and jerked her head when judges were looking.

"Sometimes she can really be a pain," Suzanne said.

As noon approached, crowds grew. Music and lights from midway rides blared.

Serious work

Yet, as parents and children bustled from a rock 'n' roll puppet show to the carousel, munching on funnel cakes and slurping vanilla shakes, serious work was being done.

Inside Exhibition Hall 3, Doll and Balthis began judging flowers and plants.

Doll, who fell in love with gardening after moving to Howard County in the 1950s, took up judging about 15 years ago. So did Balthis, who tends a backyard garden in Ellicott City. Both are Baltimore natives.

Though they appear gentle -- Doll also designs delicate egg art -- they conducted their business yesterday with ruthless efficiency.

That foliage is too bug-eaten, they'd say.

Those flowers are wilted.

That houseplant is lopsided.

One youngster designed an arrangement in a warn boot, filled with multicolored delphiniums, asters, snapdragons and sunflowers. Though the flowers were beautiful, they didn't fit with the casual footwear, Doll and Balthis declared, giving the arrangement third place.

Judges have to be tough. Yet, sometimes a stunning flower caught their stern eyes.

Both were amazed at the beauty of a gladiolus and its pink blossoms. They gave several colorful entries honorable mentions categories with stiff competition.

"We're trying to encourage them [competitors] to come back," said Doll, after studying another flower only inches from her glasses.

"We just want to stress a point or two."

The fair continues through Saturday; admission is $3.

The fair today

8 a.m. .. .. .. .. Gates open

30 a.m. .. .. ..Draft horses and mules show

8: 30 a.m. .. .. ..4-H canine show

a.m. .. .. .. ..Antique automobile show

30 p.m .. .. ..Pie-eating contest

1 p.m. .. .. .. ...Pretty animal contest

1 p.m. .. .. .. ...Midway opens

2 p.m. .. .. .. .. Grand-opening parade

p.m. .. .. .. .. Cow-milking contest

p.m. .. .. .. ...Ravens Marching Band

p.m. .. .. .. ...Old-time threshing demonstration

30 p.m. .. .. ..Farm Queen contest

p.m., 7 p.m. .. .Zion Mountain Boys

p.m. 4-H .. ... .baked goods auction

p.m. 4-H .. .. ..swine showmanship contest

30, 7: 30 p.m. .Spur and Stirrup Mounted Drill Team

Pub Date: 8/16/98

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