Farm lifeMARYLAND'S consummate end-of-the-summer ritual...

NOTES AND COMMENTS

August 25, 1999

Farm life

MARYLAND'S consummate end-of-the-summer ritual begins Friday. The 118th State Fair -- part agricultural trade show, part carnival, part bazaar and part horse race -- will offer Marylanders a glimpse of lifestyles threatened by urban sprawl, international competition and, this year, drought.

As it has in past years, the fair will have plenty of farm attractions. About 800 youngsters have signed up to enter the 4-H animal competition and about 1,000 adults and youths have entered the open competition.

Thousands of others will enter canning, quilting and baking contests. A group called Barn Tours will give city slickers the opportunity to learn the difference between a shorthorn and a Simmental steer, as well as between a sow and a barrow. The fair will also have a birthing center for cattle and hogs.

For those not interested in rural life, the normal assortment of rides, amusements and games awaits. The Timonium track will play host to nine days of racing, with purses estimated to be about $1.5 million. The Beach Boys, appearing on Sept. 3, will headline an assortment of musical acts.

Admission is still $4 and children under 12 get in free. Take light rail, which has a stop at the fairgrounds. Getting a glimpse of Maryland's agricultural life couldn't be more convenient and less expensive.

Hopkins on the rise

SATISFACTION must be felt in the Johns Hopkins University community that its undergraduate program made the top 10 in U.S. News & World Report's annual ranking of colleges and universities. Congratulations are in order.

However arbitrary the listing and however much it is denounced by institutions placing lower than expected, the rating is well-intended consumer advice to young people who are desperate for such help in making crucial decisions.

The reason for Hopkins' leap from 14th place among national universities to tied for seventh is nothing undergraduates would experience. It is a change in statistical weighting, with the effect of rewarding schools that stress science instruction. Hence the small and specialized California Institute of Technology came out No. 1 at the expense of Harvard, Yale and Stanford.

What's really improving Hopkins for the prospective undergraduates are the residential housing renovations so visible in Charles Village, the hole in the ground that will become an arts center, the interfaith church center and the overdue arrival of coffeehouses and small businesses catering to a university community.

Many a scholar laments that research excellence in his or her own field deserves more attention than mere undergraduate popularity. Impressionistically, Hopkins would have been recommended in past years to superior undergraduates who already had a graduate student's sense of purpose and, perhaps, tunnel vision.

The greater truth is that no research university has a general reputation better than its undergraduate program's reputation. From that standpoint, the rise of Hopkins to the top 10 in this arbitrary listing helps all branches of the university.

It is likely to prod a rise in applications from the best candidates. The university should make the most of this.

Raljon vanishes!

NOT many folks are lamenting the demise of Raljon, Md., that 200-acre ZIP code created to feed the ego of Jack Kent Cooke.

But the mega-millionaire is now deceased, and a new owner has purchased Cooke's beloved Washington Redskins and The Stadium That Jack Built for his football team in Prince George's County.

The land used to be part of Landover. Residents thought of themselves as hailing from Landover. But The Squire, as Cooke was called, had other ideas.

Once he purchased the site for his stadium, he petitioned the U.S. Postal Service to give him his own ZIP code -- Raljon, in honor of Cooke's two sons, Ralph and John.

Thus was created a new Maryland community, which was host to 80,000 visitors 10 Sundays a year. The rest of the time, Raljon's population shrank to infinitesimal levels for residents with homes near the stadium.

Daniel M. Snyder, the new Redskins owner, ended this nonsense. No more Jack Kent Cooke Stadium. No more Big Jack microbrew beer at the stadium. And no more Raljon. Just good, old Landover, Mr. Snyder said.

Nearby residents are cheering. So is the county executive. Landover is back!

Not exactly. It turns out the Postal Service never viewed the stadium, at 1600 Raljon Road, as being in Raljon -- or in Landover. To the postal delivery folks, that neck of the woods is Hyattsville, 20785-4236, carrier route C079.

So let's give a round of applause to the Redskins Stadium in Hyattsville (or if locals insist, Landover). The Cooke era is over.

Raljon, we hardly knew ye.

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