Another 'excellent' year for Harford Farm Fair, but carnival may not return

After a quarter century, the Harford County Farm Fair's 4-H events continue to grow and the whole event had another "very successful" year, director Skip Pieper said.

The new pre-fair carnival, however, did not have the fiscal impact organizers had hoped, and Pieper said he is not sure if it will be back.

"That is probably the 50th time I have been asked that in the last three days," Pieper said with a laugh. "The carnival obviously didn't do hardly anything for us, because of the weather."

Thursday's late storms also meant the fireworks fizzled out on opening night, which Pieper said was a good decision.

"We were glad we canceled the fireworks because we had a really hard storm come through," he said. "As we know, everything on these grounds is a weather event."

The high temperatures in the early part of the weekend, at least, saw "a couple of people who had heat incidents," but Pieper did not know of anyone who was taken to the hospital because of the heat.

Outside of that, the fair had an "excellent" turnout on Friday, and Saturday was also "a very good day," he said.

Sunday featured the Food Fiesta and pie-eating contest, as well as the crowd that fair organizers hope for the most: families.

"As usual, the Sunday afternoon crowd is really family-oriented," he said. "The Sunday afternoon crowd is what we are looking for."

Pieper noted that whether or not the carnival returns, the fair committee has no interest in "turning it [the fair] into a carnival atmosphere."

He said he believes most of the vendors plan to return and the fair will continue to be a successful celebration of agriculture.

"Almost all the ones that I talked to said, 'Yeah, we want to be back,'" Pieper said of the vendors.

Meanwhile, the 4-H program that is at the heart of the fair continues to grow.

The numbers and varieties of animals in the event have gone up dramatically since the fair came to the Equestrian Center 25 years ago.

"The year before we came to this property, we had nine hogs in our hog sale. Now we have 100, 120," Pieper said. "Twenty-five years ago, we didn't know what a dairy goat was. But now the dairy goat population is one of the great projects."

The animal sale keeps expanding, with capon chicks and a turkey this year.

As for the other events, visitors can look forward to at least something different next year.

"We always try to bring in new events," he said. "We would certainly like to have more entertainment."

The live entertainment performances this year proved successful, he said.

"We had local bands this year performing. They did very well. We had a talent contest, which was a huge success," Pieper said. "The building there was overflowing. I am sure the talent contest will be brought back."

If he and the other organizers have anything to say about it, the fair will keep going from success to success, with small changes like more local foods in the food court continuing to make an impact.

"We certainly see the local food expanding," he said. "We keep tweaking these little things."

Aimee O'Neill, the other organizer, agreed that the fair went extremely well.

She noted the horse draft pulling demonstration had one of the largest turnouts.

"We actually had a really good day," O'Neill said of the event.

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