Mornings at county fair Chores: Crowds are smaller early in the day, and the pace may seem slower but a lot of hard work is going on.

August 20, 1998|By Del Quentin Wilber | Del Quentin Wilber,SUN STAFF

Looking like a determined platoon, three nannies and their six charges marched toward the horse ring at the Howard County Fair yesterday morning.

"It's something different to do with them," said Audra Schlossnagle, 22, of Elkridge as she looked after a 1-year-old. "This is nice. It's easier, fewer people, and it's before nap time."

The crowds are small in the mornings at the Howard County Fair, which ends its eight-day run at its West Friendship fairgrounds Saturday. But the placid appearance before the midway opens and hordes of suburbanites arrive for rides and games is deceiving -- hard work is going on.

"In the morning, that's when you sweat the most and work the most," said Amy Iager, 18, of Fulton, who is showing three dairy cattle and three pigs.

The morning fair is the fair of decades ago, focused on farming and animals. It attracts the curious and those with time -- nannies, grandparents, mothers and children.

They were drawn yesterday by a fair schedule that says it all -- 8 a.m. 4-H wool breeding sheep show; 9 a.m. 4-H breeding sheep fitting contest; 10 a.m. 4-H goat show and paint horse show.

At the show pavilion where the goats and sheep were on display, spectators leaned against the fences.

"Can we go in there?" one young girl asked her mother, pointing frantically into the ring.

About 50 spectators were watching children compete in a sheep-fitting event. Sheep fitting is relatively simple: clip and comb the wool of a ewe or ram to perfection.

Scott Fry, 11, was fitting a sheep for the first time. Like others, he awoke early and went to work, washing cows at 6: 30 a.m., feeding his sheep, cleaning his rabbits' cages. Others cleaned stalls, fed livestock, piled hay.

As the contest started, children dressed in white shirts with green ties and khaki pants dragged metal brushes through sheep wool, straightening the fibers, making it easier to cut. One girl swabbed her ewe's ear with a wet towel.

Scott finished second in his age group in the sheep-fitting contest. There were two entries.

"I have a lot to do," said Scott, standing in the shade. "In the afternoon, I can go on rides. It's just harder in the morning."

From a suburb of Ellicott City, Scott keeps his sheep on a family friend's small farm. He rents a calf from a farm in Lisbon.

Sean Todd, 16, of Taneytown said he was trying to shear a smooth coat on his sheep, named Arnold, while leaving enough wool to highlight the hind legs.

L A half-hour later, Sean had won -- his fourth year in a row.

"It's not that big a deal," said Sean, whose dad is a professional shepherd. "I have lots of practice at home."

As the day wore on, more visitors meandered down the gravel midway road, past the still-silent rides.

Pushing a stroller that barely contained her two spry children, Karen Valentine, 28, said her children enjoyed the petting zoo and getting close to horses.

"I'm not in a hurry," said Valentine of Ellicott City. "With less of a crowd, it's much easier to watch my children."

Sitting in the shade of a tree, Chase Bailey, 3, ate a hot dog with his grandparents, Jane and John Bailey of Columbia.

The Baileys drove to Fairfax, Va., yesterday morning to pick up Chase.

"It's just quieter and easier with the little one," Jane said. "He loves the animals and tractors."

As the morning turned to afternoon, parents and children shoveled hay in the cattle and cow barns. Some rested in cots while others ate lunch.

Just before 1 p.m., Cindy Hines, 32, of Union Bridge and her three children nibbled on pizza after a long morning tending their 19 cows.

"We got up at 5, milked the cows, took them all out and washed them, fed them," Hines said. "The mornings are the hardest."

Pub Date: 8/20/98

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