The Maryland State Fair is expected to attract nearly half a million visitors this year. Here are ways to beat the crowds and enjoy the fair.
•Plan your time at the fair by visiting the Maryland State Fair website at marylandstatefair.com and check the schedule of events.
•There is parking in and around the fairgrounds in Timonium, but not enough of it. Take the light rail and get off at the fairground's Cow Palace gate.
•Visit the fair after school. Crowds are smallest on weekdays and in the afternoon. Stop for dinner at the Maryland Foods Pavilion where crab cakes, fresh peach sundaes and corn on the cob seasoned with Old Bay are on the menu.
•Arrive at 9 a.m. on weekends and visit the animals. Learn how to milk a cow or watch calves and piglets being born. Then be first in line for rides on the midway when they open at 10 a.m. (Noon on weekdays.)
•There are more than 40 rides on the midway. Ride your favorites first, then try the new ones. This year, they include new bumper cars, two new roller-coasters and two new kiddie rides.
•Wristband days — today is one of them — are the best ride bargain. For $20, you can ride all day. Wristbands can be purchased at the midway ticket booths and are $5 off with a coupon from Food Lion. The special is also available Monday through Thursday and Sept. 6.
•Make your own slushy at the Slush Rush wagon. But don't eat until after you ride.
•Monday night might be the most popular night at the fair. Professional bull riding and cowgirl barrel racing begins at 7 p.m.
•Tickets for the Justin Bieber concert Sunday, Sept. 5, are sold out. Also performing are "Red-Neck Woman" Gretchen Wilson at 7 p.m. today, and rock/reality star Bret Michaels at 7 p.m. Wednesday.