Putting on the dog, or horse, at the fair

Event: The Howard County Fair's pretty-animal contest offers young participants an unusual way to express their creativity.

August 05, 2002|By Sandy Alexander | Sandy Alexander,SUN STAFF

A draft horse named Bulldozer wore lace cuffs on its pasterns, a sheep had inflatable orange water wings on its legs, and two dogs - one dressed as a butterfly, one as a bumblebee - were being paraded in a wagon. It was fair time again in Howard County yesterday.

The Howard County Fair launched its first official day in West Friendship with family-oriented events - among them a pretty-animal contest and a pie-eating contest - that drew crowds with their old-fashioned appeal.

"Opening day of the fair should be a special family day of fun," said volunteer Jo Anne Hill of Lisbon, who organized the pretty-animal and pie-eating competitions. She said the events date back more than 20 years.

Yesterday was officially opening day even though demonstrations and midway rides were offered Saturday, which was called a preview day. A thunderstorm that caused damage in other parts of the area passed quickly over the fairgrounds with a little hail, distant lightning and a welcome dousing of rain, said Carole Chaney, a volunteer and board member.

Mary Streaker, a co-superintendent of the Home Arts building where baked and canned goods and arts and crafts are displayed, said the storm provided relief from Saturday's heat.

"It was so hot here ... it was like a blast furnace," Streaker said. But after the storm, "it was a wonderful evening."

The heat returned yesterday, keeping the number of pretty-animal entries low. Also, poultry entries were not allowed because of a ban intended to protect against avian influenza. This year, nine young people competed in the pretty-animal contest, creating costumes for themselves and their animals and writing narratives to accompany their themes.

"The children are absolutely amazing in their creativity," Hill said.

Sophia Larson, 7, created a hat and mane ribbons for a miniature horse named Desi in honor of the Chinese Year of the Horse. Desi showed some signs of stage fright, accidentally bumping Sophia on the cheek and then trying to bolt with Sophia trailing at the end of a rope. Sophia's mother, Alexandra Hursky, ran into the ring and got the horse under control.

"I was scared to death," Hursky said. But the judges were impressed with Sophia's presentation and named her "most creative."

Megan Bondhus, 15, of Columbia was voted "most original" with her horse decked out in ribbons and glitter and a fanciful story about visiting from a mystical land.

Katie Proia, 12, of Clarksville won "prettiest entry" with her dogs Princess and Teddy in their butterfly and bee costumes and their flower-covered wagon.

This was the first pretty-animal competition for Adam Graybeal, 13. His sheep, Mr. Peepers, was born prematurely, and Adam grew attached to it as it spent the first six weeks of its life wreaking havoc in the Graybeal house in Sykesville. Too small to show successfully, Mr. Peepers had a chance to shine in the pretty-animal contest. The two won an award for "funniest entry" with their beach-theme outfits.

Hill, who explained the contest included guidelines for humane treatment, said the animals usually seem happy to receive the attention. "You can see them smile. They are happy to be with their boy or girl."

Adam and his brother John, 11, also took part in the pie-eating contest that preceded the pretty-animal competition. "Free food," was John's motivation, he said. Plus, "there may be a prize involved."

Dozens of young people leaned over pieces of pie, their hands behind their backs, and tried to be the first to finish every bite. With brightly colored berries smeared across their faces, they gulped pastry while the crowd cheered.

"I love pies," said Maria Zare, 8, of Columbia, who competed in the 5-to-8-year-old group and bested six other children. Derek Patrick, 12, of Woodbine won for the third time in his age group and offered this advice: "Get a small piece of pie." Alex Proia, 15, and Eric Willie, 20, agreed that the secret to success in the older divisions is, "Don't chew."

"It's just a good time," said Kathy Myers of Lisbon as she watched her son and his friends scarf down pie. "It's a nice thing for the kids to do."

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