For most Marylanders, the annual Maryland State Fair means fun-filled days and nights with fried food, concerts and Ferris wheel rides on the Midway. But for residents of Stratford, the Timonium neighborhood across York Road from the fairgrounds, the fair brings annual concerns of increased traffic and noise.
But they’re used to it, according to Joe Reister, president of the Stratford Community Association.
“It’s really just something that’s kind of a part of life,” said Reister, a resident of Stratford for almost 20 years. This year, the fair runs Aug. 23 to Sept. 3.
The fair has been taking place in Timonium for 140 years, said Gerry Brewster, chairman of the Maryland State Fair and Agricultural Society, an organization that runs the fair. But, he said, “neighborhoods change over time.” So when he was named board chair last year, he said he wanted to reach out to nearby neighborhoods, establishing rapport and addressing nuisance problems.
“We want to be on good terms with [neighborhoods],” Brewster said. “We want to be a community asset [that] people are glad to live next to.”
Brewster said he has met with neighborhood association representatives a handful of times over the last few months, trying to be “proactive” about events planned at the fairground.
Most recently, he said, he met with Reister to talk about neighborhood relations and issues like traffic and noise.
Eric Rockel, president of the Greater Timonium Community Council, an umbrella group of community associations, said the fair is less of a problem for the community than other events such as concerts and motorcycle races.
“I personally take the attitude [that] the fair is only 10 days or so, once a year, and they’ve been there for a long time, so we should have to adjust somewhat to them,” Rockel said. “On the other hand, the events that go on the other 50 weeks of the year, I have a very different attitude.”
But he praised Brewster for taking the initiative to reach out to neighbors, calling it an “encouraging development.”
Earlier this August, Rockel said he was shopping at Giant food, and the sound from the Maryland Latino Festival taking place at the fairgrounds across the street was “outrageous.” He reached out to Brewster, who immediately had the sound turned down.
One solution both Reister and Brewster said has improved things, both during the fair and the rest of the year, is the repositioning of the stage for concerts so that it does not face the neighborhood.
Brewster said another way the organization is trying to ease the burden on the community is by encouraging fair-goers to use the Light Rail instead of driving and parking at the fairgrounds.
There have also been signs posted warning fair-goers that if they park in Stratford, they will be ticketed, Reister said.
Also, residents know to avoid York Road to avoid getting caught in the traffic pattern changes can block off their streets, and expect some extra noise, Reister said.
“The fair “impacts commutes a little bit. But I wouldn’t move away because of it,” Reister said.
Besides, Reister said, on days Stratford residents want to attend the fair, you can’t beat the commute.