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The Maryland State Fair started Thursday in Timonium. Here’s what to expect.

Visitors were welcomed Thursday to the Maryland State Fairgrounds for what organizers call “the 11 best days of summer.”

Last year, the Maryland State Fair, like so many other events, was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

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In fact, the Timonium fairgrounds became a drive-thru COVID-19 testing facility. It was perhaps the most dramatic pivot for the site, which opened in 1879, since World War II — when the Army Corps of Engineers used the fairgrounds to store military equipment, said Gerry L. Brewster, chairman of the board of the Maryland State Fair.

With the more contagious delta variant of the coronavirus now surging across the United States — Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. recently reinstated a state of emergency — the situation for this year’s event might look a little more precarious than it did earlier this summer, when cases way down across Maryland. More recently, state health officials investigated a COVID-19 outbreak linked to late July’s Cecil County Fair.

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Ava Butman, 5, of Denton, carries the prize she won at the Maryland State Fair in 2019.
Ava Butman, 5, of Denton, carries the prize she won at the Maryland State Fair in 2019. (Baltimore Sun Staff / Baltimore Sun)

State fair organizers have taken some precautions with the pandemic in mind. All rides will be cashless; fairgoers can purchase wristbands or ride cards at the gate. And the birthing center, where visitors usually can catch live-action births of calves and piglets, will be closed so as not to draw large clusters of people.

Hours

The fair runs from Thursday through Labor Day, Sept. 6. Hours are noon until 10 p.m. weekdays and 10 a.m. until 10 p.m. weekends.

Ticket prices

Admission is $10 for adults, $8 for seniors and $5 for kids under 12. Children 5 and under can attend free of charge. Rides cost extra.

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COVID vaccinations

For fairgoers who have yet to get their shot, now is your chance. The fair’s mobile vaccination clinic, located in the exhibition hall, will run from 3 to 7 p.m. Monday through Fridays and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekends, including Labor Day Monday. No appointment is required.

Attractions

As always, the fair is your chance to get up close and personal with some adorable farm animals, including massive cows, large sows and baby goats. Look for a live rodeo and other animal demonstrations.

The fair also features all the carnival games and rides you’d expect, some of which, Brewster said, “are pretty scary.”

Horse racing

The Timonium fairgrounds host a number of thoroughbred races on fair weekends. Place your bets before post time, 3 p.m. Aug. 27 and then at 12:40 p.m. daily on Aug. 28-29 and Sept. 3-6.

Food

Traditional state fair fare — think: deep-fried candy bars and chicken on a stick — will be available for purchase near the fair rides. Or get a taste for local flavors at stands selling Maryland-made ice cream and local fried green tomatoes. The Chesapeake Craft Brew and Wine Garden will serve locally made adult beverages. For a sit-down meal — complete with air conditioning — check out Nick’s Grandstand Grill at the track.

Music

For $25 per ticket, check out big-name musical acts on the main stage. This year’s performers include Jesse McCartney, who takes the stage Sept. 3, and Blue Oyster Cult, performing Sept. 5. Expect to hear plenty of “more cowbell” jokes — especially with actual bovines close at hand.

Not looking to spend money? Local acts will perform on a smaller stage at the fairgrounds. Free shows include Elvis tribute band Memphis Sons and Baltimore Rockabilly, performing the evening of Sept. 2.

Getting there

Light rail is your best bet, with a stop just outside the entrance of the fairgrounds. For those arriving by car, parking on the fairgrounds is $10. Limited free parking is available at the Deereco Road park and ride.

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