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(Enlarge) Melissa Grimmel flashes a big smile after her grand champion steer is sold during the 4-H Livestock Auction at the 2010 Harford County Farm Fair Saturday. Grimmel of Jarrettsville won the Triple Crown title this year with a record-breaking three grand champion animals. (Kirsten Dize | Aegis staff)

Another summer has brought another Harford County Farm Fair, the 23rd annual, and with it more wonderful memories for local residents, young and old.

Beautiful, clear and warm weather made for an excellent weekend outing at the Farm Fair this year, which saw impressive attendance numbers toward the back end of the four-day event that concluded Sunday at the Equestrian Center near Bel Air.

The attendance continued to rise throughout the weekend, culminating with an explosive Saturday evening that combined crowds gathered for the 4-H Livestock Sale, the Truck and Tractor Pull, and a special guest visit by celebrity Mario Lopez.

Joan Ryder, fair chairwoman, said that despite a weak opening day, largely because of weather concerns, the overall attendance figures were in-line with previous fair numbers.

“We made up for it on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, largely in part to the beautiful weather,” Ryder said. “I haven’t seen weather this beautiful for the event in years.”

“Compared to recent years past we were up about two to three thousand people a day [after Thursday],” continued Ryder, “so we ended up just over or right around 47,600 and in that range.”

Ryder further explained that typical fair attendance numbers hover between 46,000 and 50,000, “so hitting what we got was really good.”

But numbers aside, a farm fair wouldn’t be a farm fair without animals and children, and make no mistake, animals and their excited fans were at the fair all weekend long in force.

With everything from reptiles ranging from oversized box turtles to plated lizards, to pigs, roosters, ducks, cows, bunnies, miniature and full-sized horses, lambs, sheep and goats, there was no end to the sights and sounds of excited youngsters.

“Lookit the pigs! Lookit the piiiigs!” screamed Taylor Smith, 5, of Forest Hill, in one of the many animal barns Saturday. The youth could barely contain himself as he scrambled back to his mother, Joan Smith, and tried to drag her over to the pen, which contained a blissfully resting mother and her batch of seven nursing piglets.

“He’s been like this all day,” said a sighing, yet smiling, Joan, who relented and joined her son at the pen. “The good news is that he’s very happy, and also that he’ll sleep good tonight.”

Large tents, like the children’s activity tent, offered respite from the increasingly potent sunshine as the day progressed, as well as offering a range of arts and craft activities for youngsters.

Jessie Muncy, 5, and Jacob Hester, 6, were busy scribbling onto individualized buttons with markers, crayons, and glitter sticks.

“I’m making my masterpiece!” shouted Jacob, who proudly held up the unfinished button for all to see.

“Mine’s going to be better,” said Jessie, who kept her eyes focused on the task at hand. Both children were later spotted near the the pig races with their buttons on their chests.

Tim Michaels, a 29-year-old Abingdon resident, was present for one of the many Willy WooWoo’s Summer Adventurer Show, eating a snowcone while his 4-year-old daughter, Kaeli, bounced and giggled in front of him. Michaels said it was his first time attending the fair, despite being a Harford County resident for two decades.

“I had heard it was really good in the past,” said Michaels, “but this has turned out to be pretty fun as well. I don’t know how it was back then, so I don’t feel like I’ve missed anything. Kaeli’s enjoying it too, so that’s all that matters to me.”

Michaels said that Kaeli’s favorite attractions were definitely the animals.

“She loved the cows and goats, but when she saw the baby ducks, she fell to pieces,” said a laughing Michaels, who said he plans to attend again next year. “It was the first time she had ever been so close to baby ducks, and she squealed and squealed when she got to pet them.”

Despite the sparse Thursday evening foot traffic, Friday and Saturday afternoons showed no such weakness, largely in part to the 7 p.m. Truck and Tractor Pull, which drew massive crowds of screaming, excited children and satisfied parents.

It was a loud dirty affair, with engines roaring and mud splattering to and fro that only served to further excite the audience.

Ryder agreed that the truck pulls were a big attendance draw.

“I think the main reason for Friday, Saturday and Sunday’s heavy traffic was because of your truck pulls,” Ryder said. “I don’t quite know why, but people love them, and always have loved them. It’s an event that we’ll keep on trying to provide.”

The much-ballyhooed arrival of celebrity Mario Lopez at 5 p.m. on Saturday sent much of the female population on the fairgrounds into a tizzy, as he signed autographs, signed copies of his book, “Extra Lean,” and made himself available for fan photos at the Walter G. Coale booth.

Brought to the fair through the efforts of Ray Bent, CEO of Walter G. Coale, Inc. in Churchville, Lopez spent an extended time with fairgoers, including Harford County Boys and Girls Clubs members, and was praised by many, including Ryder, for his efforts.

“I received a lot of positive comments about Mario Lopez,” Ryder said. “He was a member of the Boys and Girls Club, and came out in conjunction with that, and we were much better off as a fair organization with his attendance there.”

Attendance, which saw traffic backed up a half mile along Tollgate Road to enter the fair Saturday evening, was also bolstered by one of the most successful 4-H Livestock Auctions in recent history.

The star of the auction, Triple-Crown winner Melissa Grimmel’s three Grand Champions — steer, hog and lamb — all went up for sale and garnered impressive prices for each, thanks in-part to an exciting series of bidding between ShopRite and Giant Foods.

At the conclusion of the auction, roughly $168,000 was raised for local 4-H member, with many of the animals being donated back to their owners by the winning bidders.

“The auction was fantastic,” Ryder said. “I think it was more money than they ever made, offhand. It was certainly an impressive showing this year.”

Ryder said that despite the fair’s success this year, there is always room for improvement.

“We’re going to have a meeting on the first of September, called the follow-up farm fair meeting,” Ryder said, “where we bring in all the members and go over ideas that are good and bad.”

“We try to do whatever we can do to improve the fair, each year, so when we get together as a collective group, that’s what we’ll do.”

user comments (1)

user buddy says...

I can't view the rest of the pictures :(




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