This year's Harford County Farm Fair promises to be a little more than the usual farm fair.
After a quarter-century of distinguishing itself as the area's headquarters for all things agricultural, the fair, which runs July 25 through 28, will have one noticeable addition — a carnival midway.
Last year the fair hosted a carnival a week before the actual fair, but this time, the two events will be held at the same time.
Aimee O'Neill, the fair's co-chair, said in the past the fair wanted to avoid becoming known as a midway, but she said there was clearly a lot of interest in the carnival.
"We felt it would bring in new and different people to the fair," O'Neill said about the carnival. "It will complement the fair."
That will make the Harford Farm Fair look more similar to the Maryland State Fair and other county fairs. But it does not mean the fair has forgotten its agricultural roots.
"[The carnival] is embedded within the fairgrounds itself, so even if [people's] primary intent in coming to the fair is to enjoy the carnival, they will also have an opportunity to see the fair's true focus, which is the [Future Farmers of America], 4-H and the ag community," she said.
The fair committee also hopes the carnival will bring in more revenue during what continues to be tough economic times for putting on a fair, she said.
"It's another way of raising revenue without raising the ticket prices," she said. "We are looking at it as a positive step, and the whole focus of the board is to host this farm fair for the community so that people can learn about ag."
Last year's carnival "was a bust because it was 105 degrees," so officials were telling people to stay home, after which there were two severe thunderstorms, O'Neill said with a laugh.
Admission to the carnival, which will be in the center of the fairgrounds on Tollgate Road across from the information tower, will be in addition to the regular fair tickets.
An all-day carnival pass will cost $20. The carnival will run the same hours as the fair and is being hosted this time by Sherwood Amusements.
Despite the carnival rides, the fair will still offer the traditional Kidway children's attractions and games as part of the regular fair admission.
The fair will again cost $8 per person, per day, $4 for ages 3 through 12 and $5 for those with a military ID. Senior citizen day will also be all day Thursday, with a $5 admission.
Something for almost everyone
Besides the new carnival, the fair will again have everything from pig races to peach pie contests, tractor pulls and the annual Miss Harford County Farm Bureau competition.
The prayer breakfast will kick off the fair July 25 an hour later than usual, at 7:30 a.m., which should make it convenient for more people, O'Neill said.
Local quilter Jeanne Kehl will also be raffling off a commemorative Farm Fair quilt, with tickets being on sale all the days of the fair and the winning ticket being drawn during the Peach Pie Contest on July 28.
July 25 will be capped off with the antique tractor pull and fireworks in the evening, while the 4-H livestock auction will be Saturday evening.
A Talent Contest will be returning on Friday and Saturday nights, and O'Neill said people are still encouraged to sign up. Volunteers are also still needed.
The Pre-Fair 5K Run is again expected to draw about 175 to 200 runners, the maximum allowed, at 8 a.m. on July 21. The run costs $25 to enter until July 18, with the price including a T-shirt.
The Food & Wine Fiesta, with a farmers' and artisans' market, will also cap off the fair, from 1 to 6 p.m. on July 28.
Parking is available across the street from the fairgrounds on Tollgate Road, on nearby Vale Road, or via shuttle service at Red Pump Elementary School and Patterson Mill Elementary School.
More information and the fair schedule is available at http://www.farmfair.org. Vendors are encouraged to sign up online.