Even with new events like glassblowing, Carroll County 4-H & FFA Fair remains steeped in tradition

Mobile Glass Studio a new addition for fair steeped in tradition.

Ryan Gothrup moved quickly but with precision — in order to be successful, his work requires it.

He took a long metal pipe with a mouthpiece on the end, and dipped it into a glowing red furnace that rests at 2,100 degrees and is filled with molten glass. Spinning the pipe, Gothrup picked up the glass on the end of the metal and brought it out of the heat.


Moving swiftly, he rolled the flexible glass on a metal table to provide shape, before having Rob Immello blow into the end of the pipe to produce a small bubble inside the molten glass. With the presence of heat, Gothrup said, the bubble grows and expands the glass, which forms the beginning of what will soon be a vase.

For Gothrup, who’s been blowing glass for more than two decades, the action is routine — he moves in fluid motions, almost as if the pipe is just an extension of his own body.


But for the Carroll County 4-H & FFA Fair, the glassblowing demonstrations are a first.

Gothrup and his Mobile Glass Studio were parked in the vendor section for multiple days at this year’s fair.

And for Laura Scott, of Woodbine, the glassblowing demonstrations were at the top of her list.

“I specifically wanted to get up here to see it,” Scott said.


Gothrup said 10 years ago, he built a glassblowing studio on a trailer. Now, he said, he has three of them and sends them out with the help of other glassblowers he hires to do demonstrations at fairs and festivals.

“I like the idea of kind of educating people on location,” he said.

The average person won’t go to a glassblowing studio, he said, but when the studio comes to the people, they get the chance to check it out.

“All of a sudden these people get to see how glass is made,” Gothrup said. “It surrounds them every day and most people know nothing about how it’s created.”

Scott said while she’s seen glassblowing before, it was nice that it was right here in Carroll for her to watch this week.

Gothrup said all of their demonstrations throughout the week have been different.

“We literally just sit out here and blow glass for six hours straight, and we make a wide variety of things from cowboy hats to vases and bowls to fish, tractors and all kinds of different things,” he said.

And while it’s fun to watch, the whole point is education, he said. Gothrup said while he works to create the pieces, he explains how it’s done, as well as the science and engineering behind the process.

He said Carroll’s fair is smaller, but there were still big crowds all week. The goal, he added, is to come back again next year.

Scott, who has lived in Carroll County all her life, said she has been coming to the fair for many years.

“We like that it’s totally ag and we like to see the exhibits,” she said.

And, she added, while the 4-H & FFA Fair has always had its staples, she likes the events that have been added over the years as well.

“We really like the tractor pulls and the horse pulls,” Scott added.

Becky Stem, 4-H & FFA Fair chairwoman, said the fair has kept all its key events over the years.

It was a night of firsts at the Carroll County 4-H & FFA Fair Wednesday. Margaret Smith, 15, Manchester Valley High School student, took home first place grand champion for her Apple Pi Pie. But it was only the third pie the teen ever made, she said.

“We’ve done things a lot the same. We still have a cake auction. We have a livestock auction,” she said.

What has changed is that there is a lot more community support, she added.

“And that’s huge for us. That’s what makes this fair run — the community support,” she said.

Wednesday night’s cake auction is proof of that, Stem said. The grand total raised during the auction was more than $76,000, with the grand champion cake going for $12,000, she said.

The vendors, some of which are newer, like the glassblowing, help a lot at the fair, too, Stem said. The fair works to bring entertainment to that area to keep fairgoers out and mingling with the vendors, she said.

In addition to glassblowing, this year they also brought back the petting corral, she added.

What’s been great about the glassblowing stand, Stem said, is that the pieces they’ve made were donated to 4-H and have been auctioned off throughout the week, like at the cake auction and silent auction.

Stem said Carroll’s 4-H & FFA Fair has a lot of tradition and has its regulars each year. The fair offers a down-home county fair feeling, she said.

“You do see a lot of the same faces, which is great,” she said.

But they do work to bring in new people each year and to keep it family-friendly and safe. And with free admission and no parking fee until 4 p.m., that helps, she said.

“We feel like it’s very inexpensive to bring your family here.”