It was a warm afternoon on the first day of the 25th Harford County Farm Fair Thursday, and visitors defended themselves against the heat with sunscreen and snowballs.
The crowds were steady for an opening day and included several groups of children, a good sight, according to one longtime member of the fair's board.
Brian Reid, from Bel Air, was attending the farm fair with his children for the first time.
"I'm loving it," he said. "I know the kids are loving it, getting to pet everything."
Reid paused, taking in the sight before him: three black and white cows lounging in a bed of hay, then remarked, "I've never seen a cow this big."
The fair's directors and volunteer workers were well prepared to help their visitors cope with the heat.
Aimee O'Neill, the fair's co-chairman, said the fair has a misting test and emergency medical treatment on site. Attendees are also reminded hourly about hydration and free water is given out, she said.
While the visitors took in the sights and sounds of the annual four-day event at the Harford County Equestrian Center in Bel Air, 4-H exhibitors helped their animals cope with the heat.
Dozens of fans were set up in the barns on the fairgrounds to keep the animals cool. Many concerned owners of rabbits placed empty drink bottles filled with ice inside their animals' enclosures, while the owner of a sow with piglets keep them cool by misting them with water from a hose.
White tents lined the pathways connecting the barn area, the food court, and the exhibition area.
Hickory Veterinary Hospital was among the many local businesses set up with a tent, table, informational brochures, and dish of hard candies. Many businesses hoped to attract the attention of visitors by offering fair-goers the opportunity to enter a raffle. The raffle prizes up for grabs ranged from 100 gallons of gasoline to a gourmet meat package.
Helen Kerr, an employee of the veterinary hospital, acknowledged that having a presence at the fair is definitely about advertising.
But, she added, it's also about connecting with the community. "Especially with a vet," Kerr said. "It gives people an opportunity to talk in a more friendly setting, and ask little questions that they might not go into a hospital for." The animal hospital has had a tent at the fair for the past five years.
Jasmine Battle sat under a white tent next to two large displays of authentic handmade Cherokee dream catchers, which she says she's made "all her life." Battle explained that she works out of her home and sells her creations through a website, but fairs like this are an opportunity for her to bring her craft to the public.
Local volunteer organizations also used the farm fair as an opportunity to connect with the public. Members of the volunteer fire department were busy giving out red and pink plastic fireman hats to children, along with important safety lessons.
Meanwhile, members of political parties were set up with informational pamphlets about the candidates of their choice for the presidential and senatorial elections, prompting fairgoers to stop and engage in discussion – truly an example of community democracy in action.
The Farm Fair excitement continues through 6 p.m. Sunday at the Equestrian Center, 608 N. Tollgate Road in Bel Air. For daily schedules, directions and ticket and parking information, visit http://www.farmfair.org.