As Hurricane Irene crept up the East Coast, what should have been a festive opening weekend at the Timonium Fairgrounds is proving to be a bit more stressful for organizers of the Maryland State Fair.
After an opening night that included a full slate of 4-H competitions and demonstrations, Irene dampened plans by Saturday afternoon.
Officials of the Maryland State Fair in Timonium said they had closed the fair's midway rides and games at 3 p.m., and that the buildings at the fair would close at 5 p.m. because of Hurricane Irene.
The rest of the fairgrounds will close for the day at 6:30 p.m., officials said, canceling activities planned for Saturday evening.
The fairgrounds, on York Road, are still scheduled to reopen on Sunday morning at regularly scheduled times, officials said.
However, fair officials said they would continue to monitor weather conditions and announce any additional schedule changes.
Max Mosner, president of the State Fair, said discussions about what to do should the storm hit have been long under way.
"We've had an interesting couple of weeks leading up to the fair, and even more so the last few days," Mosner said Friday. "We're getting geared up, preparing for the worst and hoping that it'll take a turn to the east and leave us alone.
"But we're ready," he said.
Plans were already in place to protect the carnival equipment and the animals.
Showings of alpacas, pigs, goats,horses, and sheep were scheduled to take place Saturday, but fairground buildings won't serve as an ark for the animals if conditions become dangerous.
Instead, the animals will simply see their stays in Timonium cut short, Mosner said. Owners will be instructed to take them home.
Regarding the Ferris wheel and other ride attractions, Mosner said fair officials got together with the show owner, which provides all of the carnivals rides, on Thursday
"They're going to button everything up and take flags down, depending on where the eye (of the hurricane) goes, and what the forecast is," Mosner said.
"The tallest item is the giant Ferris wheel, and it will sustain 90 mile-per-hour winds," he said, "but we talked about the possibility of taking the tubs (where people sit) off.
"In six hours, that carnival can be totally down and on the road, so we'll see what tomorrow brings and act accordingly."