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Eagle Archive: Celebrating Carroll County at the 4-H and FFA Fair

By Kevin Dayhoff, kevindayhoff@gmail.com

4:10 PM EDT, July 30, 2012

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The Carroll County Agriculture Center has been a beehive of activity in preparation of the annual Carroll County 4-H and FFA Fair, which officially opened on July 27.

Historically, the summer and end of harvest events have always played an important role in Carroll County because of the region's agricultural roots.

Prior to 1865, the business of farming was, for the most part, our subsistence existence. Farmers were essentially self-sufficient.

However, after the Civil War, farmers became increasingly "dependent on creditors, merchants and railroads for their livelihoods," according to James Stewart of Reed College, who has concentrated his studies on this period of agriculture and economics. "These relationships created opportunities for economic gain, but also obligations, hardships and risks that many farmers did not welcome."

In Carroll, this period evoked celebrations of the farming way of life. A "program of events" found in an 1871 publication of the old American Sentinel refers to a "Grand Exhibition of Farm machinery under the auspices of the Carroll County Agriculture Society on the Fair Grounds, Westminster, MD."

Actually, the first authoritative mention of an organized agricultural fair event in Carroll County occurs in 1869. Nancy Warner writes in her book, "Carroll County Maryland, A History," that on Jan. 11, 1869, the Carroll County Agricultural Society was organized "at a meeting at the Court House."

"Capital of $25,000 was raised through the sale of 500 shares of stock at $50.00 per share. Thirty acres of land was bought between the present Fair Street and Malcolm Drive," Warner wrote.

It is believed that the first agricultural fair in Carroll County may have taken place on July 4, 1869, on East Main Street in Westminster — though the current Carroll County 4-H and FFA Fair celebrates its roots going back to a picnic held Aug. 14, 1897, at the Otterdale Schoolhouse, in Taneytown.

The fair moved to Westminster in 1954. The Carroll County Agriculture Center was established as a private organization on March 20, 1954, by a group of visionary leaders who purchased the land at the end of an old dirt lane off Gist Road, way outside of town — or at least it was back then — with their own money.

This year's fair runs through Saturday, Aug. 4, with racing pigs, the annual Combine Demolition Derby, Wild West Night, Car Demolition Derby, Lawn Mower Racing, Tractor Pull and more. Many are looking forward to seeing country music singer and songwriter Kip Moore on Aug. 4, at 8 p.m.

For a calendar of events and more information, go to carrollcountyfair.com.

See you at the fair.

When he is not eating his way from one end of the fair to the other, Kevin Dayhoff may be reached at kevindayhoff@gmail.com.