60 years later, the fair is still a hot ticket

August 17, 2005|By Sandy Alexander | Sandy Alexander,SUN STAFF

Sixty years after it first opened its gates, the Howard County Fair proved to be a popular summer tradition, drawing an estimated 70,000 visitors to the West Friendship fairgrounds Aug. 6 through Saturday.

As always, weather was the key factor in ticket sales during the fair's eight-day run, said Vaughn Turner, president of the fair board.

Heat and humidity were particularly unpleasant Friday and Saturday, contributing to a drop-off from last year's estimated 80,000 to 90,000 attendees.

Exact attendance numbers are not calculated, Turner said, because ticket sales do not reflect weeklong passes, free admission for children younger than 10 and days when free admission is offered to senior citizens and members of the military.

Every year, the fair offers livestock shows, 4-H activities, demonstrations, entertainment, rides and contests.

Participation in 4-H animal shows has continued to grow, with 288 market pigs, 140 market lambs, 78 beef steers and 42 market goats taking their turns in the show ring. Rabbit and poultry entries were also on the rise.

Entries overall remained steady in the home arts building, where hundreds of baking, canning, sewing, art and craft categories allow people to test their skills against others.

Photography made the largest jump, said Carolyn Kulp, co-chair of the Home Arts Department, with entries numbering 540 this year.

Woodworking, with 112 entries, and baked goods, with 446 entries, were popular also. And 11 exhibitors filled the needlework category with 228 entries. Margaret Zanti of Ellicott City was admiring the quilts Friday with her daughter after viewing the second-place ribbon on her red-and-white hand-stitched quilt.

"I was overjoyed," said Zanti about her success. Zanti's daughter, Mimi Boblitz of Ellicott City said she and her husband enjoy coming to the fair every year.

"It kind of makes you feel like you're in the country," she said. "It is nice to know that people still care about growing things, making things by hand and taking care of animals."

Farm crop entries -- including hay, corn and soybeans -- were down, Turner said. But the vegetable building was full of tomatoes, squash, peppers and beans.

Two pumpkins tied as the largest at 68.3 pounds.

Elsewhere, traditional events drew crowds eager for a taste of country life and family entertainment.

An auction of sculptures made by a chainsaw carver during the fair brought $5,500 for a scholarship program, according to Turner. The antique farm machinery club set up its largest display ever. There were 27 contestants in the amateur variety talent show, and square dancing returned to the fair for the first time in at least a decade.

The first mule-pull competition turned into a one-team demonstration because of the rain, but 10 other horse shows continued to be a big draw.

And animals were available for close inspection in the barns and at a petting zoo.

"We wanted to show the kids the animals," said Harry Hearn of North Laurel, who was strolling thorough the petting zoo with is wife, Krystyna, their 3-year-old daughter, Anastasia, and their 1-year-old son, David.

"Most people don't really realize what goes on a farm," said Hearn, while his children reached out to touch baby goats and ducks.

Hearn said he hopes his children will exhibit at the fair someday.

"We're losing agriculture in this state, and it's very important that we don't lose it," Hearn said.

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