Grey skies welcomed the first group of attendees at the annual Fall Harvest Celebration at the Carroll County Farm Museum. As the morning wore on, the sun broke through the crowds as families enjoyed all there was to offer during this annual event.

Now in its 35th year, the celebration was first held Oct. 23, 1966. The family-friendly event, which is also budget friendly, celebrates all things fall, farm and family.

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According to Joanne Weant, Carroll County Farm Museum manager, “The idea behind the festival was to demonstrate the activities that were part of a farm family’s way of life in the 1800s.”

The establishment certainly continues to do that, even today, as there were demonstrations of blacksmithing, tinsmithing, quilting, wood carving, rug hooking and chair caning. In addition, there were costumed guides leading tours in the farmhouse and Hoff Barn. Those attending could also peruse displays of old-fashioned farm equipment and machinery.

One of the highlights of this year’s celebration was the brand-new playground built with a farm theme. Weant said “the playground is a great addition for the families who visit us as well as the many field trips we host throughout the year.”

Due to drainage issues with their original playground, it was time to design a new playground that avoided those issues. “The playground wasn’t [Americans with Disabilities Act] accessible,” said Ralph Robertson, chairman of the Advisory Board, “and it was out of date.”

“We moved the animals’ habitats back some, and made them more accessible as well, on a level ground,” Robertson explained. “We wanted something good for kids and we were lacking there.”

The bright, vast farm themed playground was a big hit during the Festival as kids of all ages were checking it out and playing on it. Robertson explained that events such as the Festival was to “have a place for people to gather,” Robertson said, “We wanted [with the new playground] to keep the ag theme.”

In reference to the festival and other events held at the Farm Museum, Robertson said, “We want to encompass the county as a whole, and not just those living here, but those visiting as well.”

When looking back on how the event has evolved over the years, Weant said, “When that first Harvest Celebration was held, it was one of the only events of its kind. Now, there are so many harvests and fall events.”

“The early Harvest Celebration included activities like apple butter making, butchering, sauerkraut making and pottery making. Over time, less and less people do those things for themselves, which has made it more difficult for us to find volunteers who can demonstrate those activities,” Weant said. “However, we still have a loyal group of volunteers who come in to demonstrate a variety of activities. And certainly, we would welcome volunteers who could demonstrate any other ‘old-fashioned’ activities that we don’t currently feature.”

Volunteers manned the Farmyard Friends animal exhibits, one of which was oxen demonstrations. People could meet the Farm Museum’s newest oxen, Jack and Jim, and meet Bud and Bo, Angus crossbred steers. Families were enjoying all the animal exhibits as their children “oohed” and “aahed” from one animal to another.

For 40 years, Paula Sullivan of Westminster has been participating in this event as well as the Maryland Wine Festival. Her stand, Granny’s Attic, started up years ago when she would attend with her mother, the late Florence Walkling. “All the kids called her Granny,” Sullivan said, “So that’s how we came up with the name.”

Sullivan’s tables featured a plethora of crafts, collectibles, homemade items such as the candles she makes, and they were selling mums and pumpkins. As she paused the conversation, she took a moment to hand candy to the kids passing by.

“I am here because I love what I do,” Sullivan said, “and enjoy the people and community.”

Even with the potpourri of fall activities behind held throughout the county, the annual celebration usually garners about 3,000 for the one-day event. “We have worked very hard to continue to offer a unique, family-friendly event,” Weant said.

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That was evident as the grounds were dotted with families partaking in activities, buying food, learning about trades of yesteryear or just sitting on a blanket listening to music by the Back Pages Band. Children of all ages lined up for the free hay rides. A magician entertained the crowd down near the main stage, families were taking selfies with the fall colors, hay bales and pumpkins surround them, and kids ran, climbed and jumped on the new playground.

Sitting not too far from the main stage where tunes such as “I’m a Believer” and “Soul Man” were played, was Jessica Shockney of Westminster. Shockney was attending with her own family, and her sister and her child. Though her sister hadn’t attended before, Shockney had been to the event in previous years, and had seen it advertised on social media. “It is great weather, affordable, great location and definitely family friendly,” Shockney said.

Her 9-year old daughter, Violet, was excited for all the event had to offer but really enjoyed “the pumpkin decorating and husking corn.” Though a little more reserved than her older sister, Juliette Shockney, 6, whispered that she, too, enjoyed the corn.

Kids could show off their crafty side decorating a pumpkin, or by making a scarecrow. Some tested their aim by paying a small fee, that benefited the Valley Lions Club in Pleasant Valley, to fire corn cobs from a cannon.

Food and craft vendors dotted the lawn at the museum, enticing children of all ages to try something new to eat or start early holiday shopping at the vendor tables.

Enjoying the new playground was 1-year old Piper Baier. Holly Baier of Hereford was enjoying the event, their first time at Fall Harvest, with her daughter, husband and son. “I had seen the event on Facebook,” Baier said, “and it looked like a good family activity for the day.”

“The kids really enjoyed the pumpkin decorating,” Baier continued, “The playground is a big hit, and they really like seeing the pigs and sheep.”

Down by the pumpkin decorating tent was a local Boy Scout troop table, and they were offering passersby the chance to roast marshmallows for free. While some enjoyed their gooey treat, others were creating in the pumpkin tent.

Anna Culotta of Carroll County was there helping her three children put together their pumpkin creations. “We came last year,” Culotta said. “We love the fall fest-type events.”

As Culotta worked with 2-year-old Gio on his pumpkin, Dominic, 6 and Gianna, 7, were focused on completing their masterpieces. Dominic said he enjoyed the pumpkin decorating the most, whereas his sister Gianna said, “I did the hay ride last year and enjoyed it. We haven’t gotten to everything yet today.”

Whereas some people might be visiting from outside the county or this might have been their first visit to the festivities, the Ketterman family has been coming for years.

Her own parents brought her as a child, but now Brandy Ketterman of Hampstead brings her own children. “We’ve been bringing them here since they were babies,” Ketterman said of her daughters, 15-year-old Chloe, 14-year-old Hannah and 9-year-old Zoey.

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“It’s an annual tradition that is family friendly,” Ketterman said. “We enjoy the animals, hayride, pumpkins … all of it, really.”

While the teenagers agreed their favorite activity was the hay ride, the youngest, Zoey, added that, “I really like the animals too.”

“The Fall Harvest Celebration really speaks to who we are as a community,” Weant said, “It reaches back to Carroll County’s rural roots.”

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