The mule pull and jumping contest was among one of the first to kick off the Howard County Fair on Saturday, where the hoofed contestants had to pull carts and leap over a high bar. (Ulysses Munoz/Baltimore Sun Media Group)

The 69th annual Howard County Fair opened Saturday morning at the Howard County Fairgrounds in West Friendship, kicking off what promises to be a week of food, fun and all things farming.

The gates opened at 8 a.m. to small crowds and overcast weather. As the day drew on and the midway opened up, the sun began to peek through the clouds, and the crowds began to thicken.

"This is the day we have been looking forward to all year," said Carol Chaney, president of the Howard County Fair Association. "It's been a great day. The sun is shining, we are looking forward to a fabulous eight days at the Howard County Fair."

Starting off the long list of exhibits, contests and attractions on tap for this week was the Fourth Annual Coon Mule Jump and 10th Annual Mule Pulling Contest, which started at 9 a.m. 

In the contest area at 1 p.m. was the Twentieth Annual Tractor Pull competition. Inside the show pavilion was the Junior Showmanship competition, a first year event offers children ages 6-9 an opportunity to show animals.

The day is scheduled to be topped off by a Square Dance at 7 p.m. in the 4-H Activities Hall.

Saturday was also Armed Forces Day which means all retired or active military members enter for free. While Saturday is the first day of the fair, which will run through Aug. 9, the official grand opening parade, sponsored by the West Friendship Volunteer Fire Department, is held Sunday at 2 p.m.

New at the fair this year is Monster Truck Madness, a monster truck show to be held in the contest area at 7:30 p.m. both Tuesday Aug. 5 and Wednesday, Aug. 6. Returning this year for the second time is the Bull Blast rodeo. The popular event will be held in the contest area at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Aug. 4 and Thursday, Aug. 7. 

For a full list of events visit the howardcountyfair.org.