Healthy Harford Day draws 1,000 to Bel Air Farmers Market

The grounds next to the Bel Air Farmer's Market were filled with vendors from across Harford County, who offered tips on developing a more healthy lifestyle during Saturday's third annual Healthy Harford Day.

The simplest tip during the event, put on by the Healthy Harford coalition, came from an 8-year-old Bel Air girl, however.

"Get off your lazy butt and work!" Josie Otremba, a third grader at Homestead-Wakefield Elementary School, shouted as she jumped up and down.

Josie was fresh off a session of kicking a soccer ball with Baltimore Blast midfielder and forward Max Ferdinand.

Her mother Sharon was with her, and noted her daughter is often physically active. Health experts often promote physical activity as a cornerstone of health.

"It was doing all the activities, the Y classes, the Zumba and the soccer," Josie said when asked what she enjoys the most.

An estimated 1,000 people attended Healthy Harford Day, which was held on Thomas Street, next to the parking lot of the Mary E.W. Risteau State Office Building, where the Bel Air Farmers Market is held each Saturday from April through November.

The event was held during the same hours as the Farmers Market, so visitors to the Market could also take in the activities and vendors of Healthy Harford Day.

In all, 45 vendors offered activities, demonstrations and information, including tips on CRX, Tabata and Zumba workouts with local trainers, healthy cooking demonstrations, obstacle courses, and services such as bicycle helmet fittings, body fat analysis and blood pressure screenings, plus tips on managing diabetes and quitting smoking.

Ferdinand, of the Blast, worked with children who wanted to kick a soccer ball into an inflatable goal.

He stressed the need to stay active and eat healthy foods.

"The most important thing, you've got to eat well, eat your vegetables," Ferdinand said.

Matt Freeland, of Forest Hill, also took in the soccer station with his three children, Rachel, 11, Aiden, 8 and Brooke, 3, whom he called "soccer kids."

"We were going through the Farmers Market, and this was just a bonus," Freeland said.

Juan Alzamora, who teaches Zumba three times a week at the Bel Air Reckord Armory, was soaked in sweat after leading a class in the Latin dance-inspired fitness routine.

"It's so much fun that you don't realize that you burn up to 800 calories in one hour; the music takes you away, allows you to work out in a party atmosphere," he said.

Frank Darling, of Fallston, a week away from his 70th birthday, went through the Zumba class Saturday and said he does the workout regularly.

He said Zumba "keeps you in shape, makes you feel good about yourself."

Natasha Virgil, of Bel Air, also went through the Zumba class; she said Saturday was her first visit to Healthy Harford Day.

She said she was able to obtain a lot of information about health, and said the event "gets you in the mindset to eat healthy and get regular checkups."

Michelle Strain, of Edgewood, attended with her children and their friends. She also found the event informative.

"Everything's been great," she said. "I think all the stations are really beneficial."

Tom Nichols, manager with the Greg Krause Memorial Helmet Fund, worked with Jessica Dennison, 14, and Ashlyn Gibson, 13, both of Bel Air, to fit bicycle helmets to their heads.

The Greg Krause organization, a nonprofit group affiliated with Healthy Harford, was formed after the 2009 death of local cycling enthusiast Greg Krause from an aneurysm. Its mission is to provide helmets for young people and to promote other bicycle safety programs.

Nichols said nearly 200 helmets were given out Saturday.

"We just provide the expertise to fit the helmet to the kid," he explained.

Healthy Harford is a nonprofit coalition established by officials with the county's Health Department, the county government and Upper Chesapeake Health, which owns the county's two hospitals.

"Our mission is to create the healthiest community in Maryland," said Bari Klein, health promotions specialist, who added attendance at the event had tripled from previous years and the number of vendors had nearly doubled.

"[People] want to be healthy, and they want to do it in their neighborhood and their community," Klein explained. "They want to see what's out there."

Klein also thanked participating vendors.

"So many people gave of their time and their skills," she said.

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