Despite a gloomy forecast, rain held off for most of the day Friday, leaving a cool breeze and overcast skies for visitors to enjoy the afternoon of Harford County's 27th annual Farm Fair. The waterworks finally kicked in closer to sunset.
Crowds stayed low until closer to the evening hours, but many of those who came out were newcomers to Harford's most prominent agricultural event.
Unlike many similar summer events throughout the state, Harford's fair continues to spotlight 4-H shows and animals. The focus on farm-based and rural life is still going strong despite competition from a relatively new midway with carnival rides.
One couple, Julie and Rich Dimmick, of Jarrettsville, remembered when the fair wasn't even there. They had helped build a recycling center just outside of the fairgrounds in the 1970s and were strolling past some food vendors on Friday for their first visit to the fair in a long time.
"We haven't been here for, like, 15 years," Julie Dimmick said. The recycling center, for which they had attended the groundbreaking, closed several years ago, and the Harford County Parks and Recreation Department's wood shop stands in its place.
Julie Dimmick said they came out "just to see what it's like compared to what it used to be like."
"It's similar but a little bit different," she observed. "There's a lot more new buildings. It's set up totally differently but it's easy to navigate."
They said they had wanted to come Thursday to get the senior citizen discount but did not make it. The Dimmicks were in the minority of fairgoers who came without children; Rich Dimmick joked it was cheaper without them.
Valerie and Michael Mettee, of Parkville, were attending the fair for the first time.
Valerie Mettee said she heard of the fair through social media and thought it might be a good way to spend Michael's birthday.
"I saw it on Facebook," she said, carrying a hot-pink umbrella and pushing a balloon-decorated stroller that held 2-year-old Raegan and 5-year-old Dillan.
She said the event has been family-friendly, despite parking being "a little weird" with the shuttle bus system that carried visitors from parking lots several miles away from the fairgrounds
"We look everything up online to see if it's kid-friendly and stroller-friendly," Valerie Mettee explained, adding the kids and her husband liked the animals. "They've had a ball so far."
She said they also go to the Maryland State Fair, but this one seems to let visitors "get closer to the animals. It's just a little more hands-on."
Tracy Volk, who brought 6-year-old Madyson and 9-month-old Annabel, said Madyson looks forward to the event every year. They live in Forest Hill, so Volk explained they regularly see the signs and set-up for the fair.
"We don't live too far, so it's a year in planning," she said with a laugh. "She is waiting for it all summer."
Madyson said she enjoyed the animals. "I like chickens, cows and rabbits," she said. "It's fun to get on the ride and do games."
Tracy Volk said the fair definitely makes it worthwhile to come every year.
"It's so fun," she said, adding she prefers the vendors. "Mommy likes to eat."
Volk also thought the fair seemed to be growing.
"To me, it looks like more rides," she said. To me, that's the big thing."
Casey Taylor, of the Bel Air area, who was also there with three children, had a similar thought. "It seems like it's gotten bigger every year," he said of the fair.
Taylor said he and his family come "pretty much every year," and they enjoy the food and rides.
"It's a good time with the family," he said. "We will keep coming out."