Record numbers enjoy fair festivities

Event: Officials, volunteers and the community help to make this year's 4-H/FFA showcase successful.

August 15, 2004|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

A county commissioner blended frothy milkshakes, the governor toured noisy livestock exhibits and hundreds of bidders vied for blue-ribbon livestock and cakes at the 107th annual Carroll County 4-H/FFA Fair in Westminster.

During its weeklong run that ended Aug. 6, the fair racked up records for attendance, exhibits and auctions. More than 75,000 visitors saw more than 16,000 exhibits, juried animal shows and spirited competitions. They watched pig races, tractor pulls and talent searches.

"Our fair was a great success with record numbers of visitors, including the governor," said Lynn Talbert, fair chairwoman. "The numbers showed us how much the community appreciates what we are doing as far as teaching kids through life experiences."

This year marked the debut of the $5.5 million Danele Shipley Arena, a 52,500-square-foot building with a show ring and enough room to exhibit 1,000 animals. Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., the first governor to visit the fair in decades, dedicated the arena Aug. 3.

"This fair is a real tribute to the industry, to Carroll County and to everyone interested in agriculture," Maryland Secretary of Agriculture Lewis R. Riley said while visiting the fair with Ehrlich. "It instills pride in all those involved, particularly the youth. Farming is a tough vocation to interest youth, and fairs do a great job at that."

Unique affair

Carroll's fair avoids carnival acts and amusement rides. It offers free admission and parking. With hundreds of volunteers as its backbone, it teaches youths horticulture, animal husbandry and crafts, and rewards them for their efforts. It builds self-confidence by encouraging children to share their talents and trades.

"This fair remains unique, as one of the most wholesome family events in the state," Sen. Larry E. Haines, leader of the Carroll legislative delegation, said at the dedication. "I give credit to the workhorses, not the show horses."

Commissioner Dean L. Minnich paid tribute to the volunteers, most of them parents and several of them with adult children who had long outgrown 4-H.

"To me, the volunteers are the real heroes of the fair," Minnich said. "You wander all through that new building and you see so much more. People will say 20 years from now that there was a real vision at work here."

Commissioner Perry L. Jones Jr. joined the ranks of volunteers nearly every night. He worked the ice cream stand and helped judge tractor competitions.

"They started me with dipping ice cream for cones, but I moved up to milkshakes," Jones said.

Competition

The cake auction drew a large crowd bidding on 214 entries, including the grand champion chocolate chiffon baked by 16-year-old Bethany Bachtel of Westminster.

Ben's Rental, a Westminster business, paid $2,500 for the cake.

Bethany said she believes she has finally perfected the recipe, with an assist from her grandmother. This year was the fourth that her chocolate chiffon made it to the auction. Two years ago, it took second place.

"It is a kind of complicated recipe, but I have gotten used to it," said Bethany.

The auction went down as the best in fair history and netted nearly $57,000 - about $10,000 more than last year. The proceeds will help start preparations for next year's fair.

The final night of the fair is traditionally dedicated to the livestock auction.

Bethany Ziegler, 14, of New Windsor had hoped her 1,000-plus-pound Hereford would attract several bidders. But only champions make it to the auction block, and "Rusty" had refused to show off his bovine prowess.

"That steer threw himself down and wouldn't walk in the ring," said Bethany's mother, Denise Ziegler. "He ran right back on the trailer to go home, though."

More than 200 buyers paid $236,704 for 249 cows, lambs and pigs - all judged champions. Bethany and her brother, Lukas, 10, are already raising livestock for next year's fair, animals they selected from their grandfather's farm.

Bob Masimore of Westminster won an all-terrain vehicle, donated anonymously to the fair. Terry Coblentz of Taneytown won the $2,004, the annual prize of the year, and several youngsters took first place for their age groups in the "I Want to Be a Farmer" and tractor-pull contests. They had to pitch hay, lasso a fake bull and pedal a toy tractor that pulled a sled. Evan Uebel, 12, won first prize after racing a wheelbarrow filled with mulch, gathering eggs and picking apples.

"I want to be a farmer," he said. "I like being in the country and out there with animals."

Jamie Lynn Lippy, 16, served as Miss 4-H, following in the footsteps of her older sister, Jenny, who held the title three years ago. Jamie also won the grand prize in the talent competition with her rendition of "Son of a Preacher Man." Among her prizes was a $100 gift certificate for TownMall of Westminster.

Early exhibitor

The fair has grown considerably since the days when children showed their exhibits in an open field in Taneytown, said Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge, who counts herself among those exhibitors from the early 1950s.

The surroundings may have been rough, but the atmosphere was no less inspirational, she said. As a teenager, she took her chickens, eggs and prize-winning souffle to the nationals several times and once demonstrated the art of making a lattice-crust cherry pie on television. Gouge later served on the county Agriculture Board and helped develop the Ag Center.

"Agriculture is fundamental to Carroll County," Gouge said. "Educating our youth is essential to the industry."

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