What's your favorite part of the Harford County Farm Fair? For Aimee O'Neill, the fair's co-chairman and longtime director, the fair's scores of farm and home arts exhibits are the best, and it would seem many would agree with her.
"My favorite part of the Fair is the opportunity for people to learn and be entertained by the 4-H members, FFA [Future Farmers of America] and members of the agricultural and general community who bring their animals, crafts, produce and more to display and share at the Fair," O'Neill said Tuesday.
The Farm Fair, which is celebrating its 25 anniversary, begins Thursday morning at the Harford County Equestrian Center in Bel Air and ends early Sunday evening.
"There is good food, good fun and so much to do at the Farm Fair from watermelon eating contests, to the Kidway, to the barnyard animal display to livestock shows to Pig Races, Puppenmeister [marionette show] and local entertainment, as well as the tractor pulls, fireworks and more," O'Neill said.
"I am a 4-H alumni and participated in the 4-H fairs as a youth. I have been a member of the Harford County Fair board (now co-chair) since the first Fair 25 years ago. I am still having fun at the Fair and invite all to come and have fun, too!" she added.
The fair will be open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.
Admission is $8 for adults, $4 for children ages 5 to 12 (in contrast to the price on the website) and free for those under 5. Seniors will be admitted for $5 on Thursday only and adults with military ID are admitted for $6 every day.
No general parking will be available on the fairgrounds or along Tollgate Road.
Visitors will need to park at the Tollgate Road Blue Lot, on Vale Road (near the Red Pump Road intersection), at Red Pump Elementary School or at Patterson Mill Middle/High School.
There will be no parking at Bel Air Auto Auction or Fallston and Bel Air high schools this year.
Handicapped parking is available at the parks and recreation lot on Tollgate Road.
The Farm Fair's traditional prayer breakfast begins at 7:30 a.m. Thursday. Organized by Upper Crossroads Baptist Church of Baldwin, the breakfast is a nondenominational celebration of, and thanksgiving for, the fair. Tickets for the breakfast cost $5 and all are welcome.
Also among the opening day attractions Thursday is the Antique Tractor Pull at 5:30 p.m. The opening day of the fair will conclude with a fireworks display; the first fireworks will explode around 9:15 p.m. and the display is expected to run for about 20 minutes.
The contest for the Miss Harford County Farm Bureau will be held, and the new Farm Queen crowned, starting at 6 p.m. Thursday in the main pavilion.
Fair-goers will have the opportunity to watch the East Coast National Truck and Tractor Pull on both Friday and Saturday, beginning at 7 p.m. The East Coast Pull is nationally sanctioned: in addition to competing for the glory of taking first place at the Farm Fair, contestants will be earning points toward national pulling awards.
If you prefer aural entertainment, be sure to attend a performance by Nate Allan & The Pilots. The Bel Air-based blues rock group will be playing live Friday from 7 to 8 p.m. and Saturday from 7 to 8:30 p.m.
Meanwhile, the Talent Show, a competition new to the Farm Fair but still in keeping with the fair's tradition of showcasing the skills of local residents, will be held on Friday and Saturday evenings, beginning at 7:30, in the main pavilion.
The first half of the Talent Show, on Friday evening, will determine the top contestants in each category: youth, student and adult. The second half of the show, held on Saturday evening, will determine the prize winners, with prizes yet to be announced.
Judging the talent show participants will be David Warfield, curator of the Bel Air Film Festival and teacher at the Harford County Film Camp, and Jessica Brockmeyer, Harford Technical High School drama instructor and member of the Phoenix Festival Theater production staff.
A long-standing Farm Fair tradition, the pie-eating contest will be held at noon on Saturday, in the main pavilion. If you're still hungry after eating all that pie, stick around for the watermelon-eating contest at 2 p.m., featuring watermelons donated by Kirk's Farm Produce of Forest Hill. More local produce can be found on Sunday at the Second Annual Food and Wine Fiesta, featuring a craft and farmer's market showcasing the work of Maryland artisans, farmers, bakers, butchers and cheesemakers. .
The Seasonal Sensations Culinary Competition, an event new to the fair, will also be held during the fiesta. Competitive cooks can compete for prizes in categories including hot or cold appetizers, entrees, desserts and beverages. The winners will be announced at 3:30 p.m. July 29.
Harford County residents and out-of-county visitors are invited to attend the fair. Information regarding admission fees is available on the fair's web page, http://www.farmfair.org, along with directions to the fair and parking information.
Aegis staff member Bryna Zumer contributed to this article.