Bridal finery or bandsaws? Both on display at fairgrounds

Here comes the bride. All dressed in white. With a hint of sawdust.

The Woodworking and DIY Show and the Wedding Show take place simultaneously each year at the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium, sharing a parking lot if not much else.

Sunday was no exception, as carloads of patrons parked and made a decision: bride's side or groom's side?

Waiting inside the Exhibition Hall, which was bedecked in flickering tea candles and floral arrangements, were vendors and booths full of the accoutrements of matrimony. Travel agents and bakers talked up their wares as impossibly thin women modeled layers of silk and satin.

Across the parking lot at the Cow Palace, the air was alive with the high-pitched hum of woodworking equipment. Men in aprons and ball caps exchanged glue-covered handshakes with their brethren, hoping to reconnect with memories of high school wood shop — or maybe just to build a nightstand that didn't wobble.

"I pulled into the parking lot and said, 'Isn't that weird?'" said Susan Shane, a Towson woodworker, of the culture clash at the fairgrounds. "Could these two shows be any farther apart?"

Well, it used to be stranger when the wedding show fell on the same weekend as the gun and knife show.

"Guys in camo and flannel would come in here and pay the $15 and say, 'Where's the guns?'" said John Zito, organizer of the wedding show. "I'd refund their money and point them down the hill."

Bride's side or groom's side?

Shirley Smith of Union Bridge pondered the question while her husband loaded the back of their pickup truck with newly purchased tools.

"The woodworking show," she said at last. "You can go there and see how he handles his money before you marry him."

Her husband, Carroll Smith, saw things the other way. "Get your wedding straightened out first and then get the tools you'll need for all the honey-do projects. Those are the tools you're going to need for the rest of your life."

Reasoned responses like this have kept the Smiths happily married for 30 years.

Inside the wedding show, Christopher Braschler admitted that he would dearly love to be talking band saws instead of bandstands. But Braschler, engaged to Kristy Wolfe of Middle River for one month, has already learned a valuable lesson.

"Anything to keep her happy," said the Waldorf resident, beaming at his bride-to-be.

Besides, he said, Wolfe wants him to build a gazebo for their backyard after their 2013 wedding and has already picked out a design.

"The do-it-yourself show? Looks like next year," he said.

In the parking lot, Mike Mooney of Timonium looked over his shoulder at the men heading for the Cow Palace as his feet and his fiance, Katie Cecil, moved toward the Exhibition Hall.

"They'll take my man card away from me," he said, pleading and laughing at the same time.

The dearth of men at the Exhibition Hall was matched by the scarcity of women at the Cow Palace.

"Most of the men were dragged here," said Zito of the wedding show. "There's actually more here than usual because there's no Ravens game."

"What we need are more women," said Charlene Birtles, floor manager for the DIY show. "We need to offer a beginning woodworking class, an introduction to tools to take away the intimidation factor."

Joe Strong, who owns the woodworking show, said the hobby needed a little image work, too.

"People think we all walk around with flannel shirts on and make intricate furniture. Well, anyone who puts up crown molding or installs wainscoting or a kick panel — if you do it, you're a woodworker," he said.

While the DIY show had its share of big-ticket machines that gathered crowds, one of the best draws were the booths where people learned to transform thick spindles of wood into elegant pens.

For 20 minutes, John Muhitch patiently sculpted a pen that he planned to give to his father. The Annapolis firefighter shaved, sanded and oiled the wood and then carved four thin brown lines at one end of the pen and one line at the other, signifying his father's four sons and one daughter.

Muhitch came to the show hoping to immerse himself in the hobby he once loved. A friend had carved pens for the members of his child's wedding party and Muhitch thought he might do the same for his own children.

"They're in college, so I'd better get going," he said.

Then, before you know it, Muhitch might be hanging out at the Exhibition Hall.

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