Fair offers a talk show host, swimming pigs

Sean Hannity will broadcast from the fair tomorrow

Maryland State Fair

August 26, 2004|By Annie Linskey | Annie Linskey,SUN STAFF

What do swimming pigs and pregnant cows have in common with conservative talk show host Sean Hannity? Possibly not that much - but all will be on hand at this year's Maryland State Fair.

This year's schedule promises a clutch of quirky and surprising events - most tied to agriculture but others rooted in popular culture.

"In the traditional fair, you think about games and rides and food," said Andy Cashman, a fair organizer. "I think people come and expect to see some neat and different ideas."

Hannity - a nationally known conservative radio and television host - is making a repeat appearance this year.

He was at the fair last year and will broadcast his radio show and sign his new book, Deliver Us From Evil, at the State Fairgrounds in Timonium tomorrow from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Hannity asked to come back this year because of his friendship with country singer Sara Evans, who will be performing, said Rich Kohles, promotion director for the fair.

The choice of a high-profile conservative had more to do with Hannity's national stature than his politics, said Kohles. "It doesn't matter to us - our board of directors is as much Democrat as it is Republican," said Kohles. "If [a prominent Democrat] was offered to us, we'd jump on it in a heartbeat."

There will be options for those who prefer to skip the political spin. Wheel of Fortune's Wheelmobile will be set up 1 p.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

The Wheelmobile is a bus fully loaded with a miniwheel and stage. Throughout the day, groups of five will be called on to try their luck as contestants.

A casting crew from the show will be on hand to take names and numbers of possible contestants, should the show come to this area.

"It draws thousands of people ..." said Maria Mager, creative services director at ABC2, which sponsors the event. "The casting people are looking for enthusiasm, how they play that game, what their skills are," she said. Prizes will be given to audience members and contestants.

Another possible way to win is at the Unclaimed Property Booth. Officials from the comptroller's office will set up a computer and search state databases for unclaimed fortunes. The service will be available from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. tomorrow through Sept. 6.

"If you allow your bank account to go untapped, or inactive, for three years, that money will be handed over to the state if that institution cannot contact you," said Michael Golden, a spokesman for the comptroller's office. "People say, `Aw, I don't have anything,' but you never know."

Last year, one person claimed a little over $28,000, but the average claim is about $800, according to the comptroller's office.

Agricultural activities also offer unusual spectacles.

New this year is the "Swifty Swine Pig Racing and Swimming Show." A herd of pigs will race on a track and then play in the water.

"It is kind of cute," said Cashman, who has seen the event at other fairs. "They race for Oreo cookies; they have little silks and colors. It's family entertainment."

The pigs run in several races each afternoon, tomorrow though Sept. 6.

The birthing station - where people can watch cows and sows give birth - will be up and running, starting at 10 a.m. tomorrow It will be available through Sept. 6.

"Have you ever seen something born?" asked Tom Hartsock, who directs the birthing station. "People are absolutely fascinated with it." In previous years, the booth has attracted hundreds of people, and this year a big-screen television will be set up so viewing the births will be easier.

Hartsock and his crew cannot predict when an animal will deliver. "Quite often, we'll have crowds come and wait for hours," he said. "We'll use that as an opportunity to tell people about agriculture and to prep them for what they'll see."

Hartsock also cannot predict what the animal will deliver. "Occasionally, we'll have a stillborn animal, which is disappointing but one of life's lessons."

For a more hands-on experience, cow-milking lessons take place in the Cow Palace from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. tomorrow through Sept. 6 for $1.

It is not as easy as it looks. "I won't say that anyone ever failed miserably," said Jo-Ann Chason, who runs the milking. "But there are several people who have to try more than once before they are successful. And that's OK, we don't hold that against them. We work with them until they are successful."

While people do drink raw milk straight from the cow, it is not pasteurized and is therefore illegal to sell. So, milkers won't get to keep their goods.

Chason does, however, provide everyone with a half-pint of milk to drink afterward.

The basics

What: The 123rd Maryland State Fair

When: Tomorrow-Sept. 6

Hours: Midway is open 10 a.m.-11 p.m. on weekends and noon to 11 p.m. on weekdays

Where: Maryland State Fairgrounds, York and Timonium roads, Timonium

Tickets: $6, children under 12 admitted free. (Rides extra.)

Parking: Limited parking is available on the fairgrounds for a minimal fee. Free parking is available at the Park and Ride location on Deereco Road west of the fairgrounds.

Public transportation: Take the light rail to the stop at the Cow Palace gate or take the No. 8 bus. (Call 866-RIDE-MTA for more information.)

Information: Call 410-252-0200, ext. 227, or visit www.marylandstatefair.com

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