In Westminster, football and the county fair are the ticket to fun in late July.
The Super Bowl XXXV champion Baltimore Ravens hold their summer training camp at the city's McDanielCollege. The Carroll County 4-H/FFA Fair takes place on the other side of town at the Carroll County Agriculture Center.
Both events offer free admission and attract droves of fans.
The fair kicks off Saturday morning with 4-H exhibits and activities, a garden-tractor pull and entertainment. The seven-day event continues through Aug. 1 with livestock shows, nightly entertainment, a mule pull, the county farm queen contest, a cake auction and a popular all-you-can eat pit beef and pork dinner. Children's Day, scheduled Tuesday, includes activities, entertainment and crafts for kids to make and take home from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Senior Citizen's Day on July 31 offers a social hour at 1:30 p.m. and a Grandparent's Contest at 6:30 p.m. (Winners have already been selected according to the essays their grandchildren submitted earlier this summer.)
The Carroll fair is one of just a handful of fairs left in the region that hold true to the tradition of county fairs: The focus is solely on youth and their achievements since the fair doesn't have a flashy carnival midway.
The Ravens Training Camp opens early Monday. The camp is serious business for the team and its fans, and it's one of the few places in today's highly structured world of professional athletics that the two groups mingle freely. Fans can meet the players and get autographs (let the kids go first, the team advises), watch the team run drills and get a gander at the Ravens' newest members, including 2003 first-round draft picks Terrell Suggs and Kyle Boller.
There's a fan zone with all sorts of football-related activities, a junior training camp and even a team store selling memorabilia on site. Training camp runs through Aug. 19.
Football and the fair are not the only reasons to come to Westminster, however. The Carroll County seat is home to a thriving downtown historic district steeped in Civil War history. Corbit's Charge - a minor skirmish that some believe helped shape the outcome of the Battle of Gettysburg - took place in Westminster. There are markers around town, self-guided walking-tour brochures are available, and the city is featured on the state's newest Civil War driving trail.
Bear Branch Nature Center (300 John Owings Road, 410-848-2517): Nature center with live animal exhibits, hiking trails and small lake. Extensive schedule of workshops for kids and adults includes nature crafts, planetarium shows, canoe games, yoga and camp-outs.
Carroll County Farm Museum (500 S. Center St., 410-876-2667): The county's former almshouse is now a museum offering a glimpse of how farm families lived in Carroll's past. Coming events include afternoon teas and the Maryland Wine Festival in September.
Carroll County Historical Society (210 E. Main St., 410-848-6494): Exhibition hall, research library, bookstore and gifts with a historical Carroll County theme. Closed after noon Saturday and on Sunday.
Carroll County Summer Farmers Market (Carroll County Ag Center, 700 Agriculture Center Drive, 410-848-7748): Crafts, baked goods, produce, flowers and weekly demonstrations by market vendors. 8 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturdays through Sept. 6 excluding this Saturday and Aug. 2 because of the 4-H/FFA Fair.
Downtown Westminster Farmer's Market (city parking lot at Railroad Avenue [Route 27], 410-848-5294): Produce, plants and more. 8 a.m. to noon Saturdays through October.
Union Mills Homestead (3311 Littlestown Pike, 410-848-2288): Union and Confederate troops camped here (on alternate nights) as they marched toward Gettysburg. Property includes historic house and grist mill. Annual Old-Fashioned Corn Roast Festival set for Aug. 2.
Where to shop
Pennsylvania Dutch Market (Route 140 and Route 97, 410-876-8100): Pennsylvania Amish bring furniture, quilts and food to Westminster every week. Forty-five vendors include non-Amish antiques and collectibles dealers and others. Open Thursday through Saturday.
Stitches of Westminster (25 E. Main St., 800-772-2162): A wealth of supplies for knitting, cross-stitching, embroidery and ornamental threadwork along with a schedule of classes for learning the proper techniques. Closed Sundays.
Coffey Music (31 E. Main St., 410-876-1045): Handcrafted Paul Reed Smith guitars, Pearl drums and keyboards and amplifiers galore. Sheet music ranges from the Red Hot Chili Peppers to Ricky Nelson. Closed Sundays.
Locust Books (9 E. Main St., 410-876-1620): The independent bookseller lives! Don't miss the great collection of regional cookbooks as well as philosophy ranging from the wisdom of Patti LaBelle to Winnie the Pooh. Closed Sundays.
The Hickory Stick (28 Liberty St., 410-848-4370): The latest in home decor plus Zoppini charm bracelets and Vera Bradley purses and accessories for a little self sprucing up.
Johanssons Dining House (4 West Main St., 410-876-0101): Great seafood, steaks and veal. The prices on the lunch menu are a steal, and the portions are definitely satisfying.
Paradiso Restaurant (210 Distillery Drive, 410-876-1421): Savor Italian favorites in the pleasant dining room or outside on the patio. For a more casual bite, visit the related Paradiso Pizzeria across the way on Locust Lane.
Hoffman's Home Made Ice Cream (934 Washington Road, 410-857-0724): Keeping folks cool since 1947. Try coconut, Dutch chocolate or tin roof for a taste of Hoffman's old-fashioned flavor. The thick milkshakes include banana and cherry. On hot nights, the line stretches around the building, and ice cream lovers of all ages visit in the parking lot.
The Stables at Westminster (452 E. Main St. at Route 97, 410-840-8181): Country-themed restaurant and lounge with menu strong on steaks and seafood. Live music begins about 9:15 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.
The Pour House Cafe (233 E. Main St., 410-751-9171): Fair trade "Seattle-style" coffee house offers "art and music" sessions on weekend nights and Sunday mornings.
Stop by the Carroll County Visitor Center at 210 E. Main St., call 800-272-1933 or go to www.carr.org/tourism. For information on the 4-H/FFA Fair, call 410-848-FAIR (3247) or visit www.carrollcountyfair.com. For information on the Ravens Training Camp, visit www .baltimoreravens.com.
Westminster is about an hour from Baltimore. Take Interstate 695 to Interstate 795 North. Follow I-795 to Route 140 toward Westminster. To get to the 4-H/FFA Fair, take a left on Center Street. Follow Center Street around to the Carroll County Agriculture Center, off Smith Avenue, and watch signs for free fair parking. To get to the Ravens Training Camp, follow 140 through Westminster to a left on Route 31. Take the next left onto Main Street. Follow the signs to Ravens visitor parking.