Outside the kitchen doors on the Carroll County 4-H and FFA fairgrounds, the smell of turkey being cooked evoked thoughts of Thanksgiving rather than an upcoming summer fair. While the fair wasn't even open yet, the kitchen staff of volunteers arrived a week earlier to prepare.
"We serve about 300 [people] a day, more than 1,500 a week," said Katie Bryan, kitchen manager. "This is all volunteer-run. All proceeds go straight back to the fair."
On Tuesday, 16 volunteers helped cook 16 turkeys, chop vegetables, bake and measure containers of pudding and gelatin. Some, like Wilson Arbaugh, have been helping in the kitchen for almost 40 years.
"All of them are favorites," Arbaugh said of the lunches and dinners the kitchen will serve throughout the week. "We have something different every day."
Youth from around the county also spent the past weeks preparing for the 117th annual Carroll County 4-H and FFA Fair, which opens July 27.
This week's event, which runs through Aug. 2, showcases more than raising livestock, baking or growing vegetables.
"The public can really come out and see that 4-H is not really just about livestock or the crafts," said Becky Ridgeway, who is with the University of Maryland Extension Service who is in charge of the county's 4-H program. "We have other programs."
Throughout the fair, for example, the county robotics 4-H club will be building a T-shirt cannon. The Carroll County Hot Shots 4-H Club will host an expo on archery.
"There is just about anything you can think of," said Debbie Weishaar, fair manager, on the 4-H projects. "Name it and there's probably a display of it somewhere."
There are 35 4-H clubs in Carroll County with a total of about 1,000 youth members, according to Ridgeway. Members range in age from 8 to 18, while youth ages 5 to 7 are considered Clovers.
The 4-H members work on their projects to enter in the fair throughout the year.
Year-long efforts by others will also be on display at 700 Agriculture Center in Westminster during the week.
"We are very close to 700 exhibitors," Weishaar said. "It is a very good size fair."
There will be plenty of farm animals to see, too, including cows, chickens, horses, sheep, goats and pigs, as well as rabbits and alpacas.
The pig category has the most entries this year, according to Andy Cashman, livestock superintendent.
"We have 150 exhibitors with over 300 pigs," Cashman said. "It is the largest number of swine exhibitors in Carroll County I have ever seen. It's exciting."
Some county fairs have limited public access to the swine barns this year because of potential health risks. Last year, for example, Queen Anne's County had six cases of swine flu reported after the county fair.
Cashman said the local fair is taking precautions to make sure both the public and the animals remain healthy.
"We are posting lots of hand-washing signs and adding more hand-washing stations," Cashman said. "We want to make sure exhibitors, pigs and folks coming to see the fair, are told to wash hands"
Animal pens are being disinfected, Cashman said, and all animals will be examined by a veterinarian before entering the fair.
Local veterinarians will also be available throughout the fair. Exhibitors will be expected to keep their animals and their areas clean.
"There is no reason people can't go in and see pigs and what they are doing," Cashman said. "Just wash hands if you're near any animal. It's the easiest and simplist thing. If people do that, we'll have no problems."
Between 45,000 to 65,000 people come out for the fair, Weishaar said, though weather conditions can play havoc with numbers.
"If it is raining or a hot, muggy week, a lot of people do not come out," said Weishaar said."We are at Mother Nature's mercy."
A hot week also does not bode well for animals. Once a youth has shown their animals, the animals are allowed to go home. By the end of the week, only those animals to be sold at the livestock auction will remain in the barns.
"Every day, one animal gets released," Cashman said. "It helps and there is more space in the barns."
Cool weather is better for the kitchen, too, according to Arbaugh.
"If it is cool, we'll have a crowd," Arbaugh said.
"In hot weather, we're the most popular place," Arbaugh said. "We have air conditioning."
This year's entertainment will include antique dancing tractors, racing pigs, lawn mower racing, combine demolition derby, car demolition derby, tractor pull and chain saw carving.
A new feature will be Clydesdales from Suttler Post Farms putting on small shows each night, Weishaar said.
The country band Parmalee will perform on Aug. 3.
For information about the fair, go to http://www.carrrollcountyfair.com.