The 54th annual Howard County Fair will include a larger space for its growing number of sheep and goat entries and an expanded number of categories for one of its most successful competitions: an apple pie contest, fair officials announced yesterday.
The fair, which will run from Aug. 7 to 14, is expected to draw about 150,000 visitors. It will include contests for cattle, horses, sheep, goats, pigs and crafts, and rides and activities at the fairgrounds' West Friendship site.
About half of the approximately 1,500 entries will be 4-H projects.
During an introductory meeting yesterday, fair representatives unveiled a new barn designed to hold a performance ring and 200 4-by-8-foot pens for sheep and goats. Before, officials used two barns that housed a total of 95 pens.
Officials decided to build the 14,000-square-foot barn after determining that sheep and goat entries had increased by about 30 percent during the past five years, said H. Mitchell Day, Howard County Fair Association president.
The increase occurs as dairy and beef cattle entries are declining, Day said. He believes zoning laws allowing properties to be built on 3 acres created more interest in sheep and goats.
The land "is too big to mow," Day said. "You can have 10 to 12 sheep on 3 acres vs. one dairy cow."
The cost of the barn was nearly $500,000, said F. Grant Hill, an information officer for the association.
Officials also decided to add two categories to their apple pie contest, saying it was more successful than they anticipated when it debuted last year. Instead of an expected 15 to 20 entries, 39 contestants submitted pies last year, said Madeline Greene, who is working with the county's 4-H on the fair.
Besides the "All-American Apple Pie" contest, categories will include a "Fancy Apple Pie" and "Apple Pies With Other Fruits and/or Nuts" category.
Last year's response "was phenomenal," said Greene. "We realized we needed to change the categories" to include the variety of pie entries received.
Fair officials will double the number of parking spaces that serve the disabled to 80.
Day said the association's 18 board members began putting the event together "the day after last year's ended."
He said this year's changes are based largely on last year's fair.
About 500 volunteers will work at the fair, Hill said.
Officials are making final plans for the fair, saying they are looking for a few more judges.
"We need people to judge the apple pie contest," Greene said.
"The credentials are good taste buds."