Fair: many events for many tastes

Agriculture and tradition highlighted during exhibition


For the 30 years that Bill and Ginny Coats have lived in Bel Air, they said, they were too busy working and never made it to the Harford County Farm Fair. They came from their retirement home in North Carolina last week to attend the 19th annual event in their former hometown.

"I want to see pigs, and I love the smell of hay," Ginny Coats said while wandering around the exhibit barn. "I never knew you could win a ribbon for a bale of hay."

Exhibitors won ribbons for dried fruit, chocolate cake and a photo of a hummingbird at the farm fair, which runs through today at the Equestrian Center in Bel Air.

The four-day event showcases the efforts of hundreds of 4-H members and highlights Harford County's agricultural tradition. During its 2006 run, the fair is expected to draw about 50,000 people.

"This is a great community event," said Jane Zumbrunnen of Bel Air, who brought her 12-year-old daughter and a friend. "I am trying to teach them about farming. Where would we be without farms?"

Volunteer Sam Dippold, 17, of northern Baltimore County spent opening day Thursday handing out maps.

"It's a big place, and people do get lost," he said.

Not if you are in uniformly bright red T-shirts, as were Donna Coates of Bel Air and her four children, ages 3 to 10. She easily kept track as the children scampered around the Kidway.

"The animals really draw them, but they like playing the games," Coates said.

Lavonne Taylor, director of the Mayfield Christian Preschool in Baltimore, thought her city children would enjoy a field trip to the country event.

"This is a fun experience for them and a really good deal - free," Taylor said.

A determined Maya Duffy, 3, one of Taylor's eight preschoolers, tugged at the director's arm and said with determination, "I am going on a horse."

Patty Myers of Street arrived with her two daughters and four grandchildren, hoping to involve a third generation in 4-H. With a blue ribbon for his chocolate cake, grandson Matt Miller, 10, seemed the likeliest of the group. The family lingered at the pig competition.

"I want to raise a pig for next year, but I will have to keep it on Mom Mom's farm," Matt said.

Matt might ask the Driver sisters for tips on porcine husbandry. The four young girls brought five pigs from their farm in Darlington to show and, they hope, sell at the fair.

"It's stressful, but they are all having a good time," said their mother, Kim Driver, trying to keep the pigs penned.

Rebecca Driver, 11, fussed over a Yorkshire cross named Nickle.

"She didn't like getting in the truck to get here," Rebecca said. "She has scratches from trying to get away."

Rebecca took second place in the junior competition, and the judge complimented her for her focus on her pig.

Dressed in a white shirt accessorized with a green bandanna, Emmy Dallam, 8, of Bel Air brushed and brushed Scooter, a hefty black pig she had raised from a piglet to 265 pounds.

Before she led the animal into the show ring, someone asked its breed. "A little bit of everything," Emmy answered.

Emmy made several rounds of the ring, guiding Scooter gently with a riding crop. She has become experienced in pig walking this year because Scooter, easily the most errant pig on the family farm, was often out of the pen, said Emmy's mother, Kate Dallam.

Emmy and Scooter took third place in the junior show.

The games and activities of the Kidway are free, and most are in the shade of tents. Children can ride a pony, pet a donkey or handle a python. They can have their faces painted or their caricatures sketched.

"I really like goats, and I got to pet one," said Erin Sanders, 4, of Forest Hill, who had multicolored stripes painted on her cheeks and a brown circle added to the tip of her nose.

Eileen Raff of Bel Air piled her 19-month-old triplets into a sturdy wagon that was much more maneuverable than the triple stroller she used at the fair last year, she said.

"This is just something fun and free to do with the kids," Raff said. "It is a neat way to teach them farming stuff."

From the triplet wagon, Michael showed he was learning. He "mooed" every time his mother asked what a cow says. Mom rolled the wagon over to give the triplets a look at 4-day-old ducklings.

"That is why we are here," said Naomi Knight, who teaches agribusiness and animal science at Harford Tech and runs the fair's barnyard with her students. "This is a great opportunity for students to work with animals and the public."

For those who consider pigs, goats and rabbits too tame, there were dragons, snakes and an alligator snapping turtle at the Wildlife Adventures tent.

C.J. Parks, 7, of Jarrettsville said it was "seriously funky" to have a Komodo dragon clinging to his shirt and a bearded dragon sitting on his head.

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