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4-H & FFA Fair culminates with country music performances

As the sun cast a glow across her face, Melissa Pratt stood planted in a prime spot in front of the stage at Buck Miller Arena next to her 13-year-old daughter, Hailey, tapping her foot to country tunes, waiting for the evening's concert to begin.

It was the second concert Hailey had ever attended. "She loves music as much as I do," Melissa Pratt said.

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The mother-and-daughter duo drove from Winchester, Virginia, to see a performance by headliner Michael Ray, an upcoming country singer, who gained notoriety for his first hit single "Kiss You in the Morning."

"I love his music; he's nice to look at," Pratt said, as other women who stood nearby turned to agree, gushing over the young, handsome singer's good looks.

Elizabeth Matheis, 19, who traveled from York, Pennsylvania, with her mother, Lisa, stood nearby, staking their claim on a coveted spot next to the stage before the crowd began trickling in. They spent the car ride listening to Ray's new self-titled album, which was released Friday.

Matheis had seen Ray perform twice before. "He's very energetic, he has a great voice, he tells great stories and it doesn't hurt that he looks nice," she said.

Each year organizers of the Carroll County 4-H & FFA Fair host a concert, held for the past four years on the day after fair exhibits officially close, volunteer Becky Stem said. The concert is free to volunteers and their children, 4-H members, National FFA Organization members, and event sponsors, said Crystal Dell, fair chairman.

Dell, who sold tickets at the front gate with other volunteers, said they were expecting a good turnout. "We're filling up quick," Dell said.

In years past, the fair has hosted country acts such as Sam Hunt, Lady Antebellum, The Band Perry, the Dixie Chicks and Brantley Gilbert, according to Stem.

"They've all been coming when they're up-and-coming and are hitting it big," Stem said. "We've been very, very fortunate."

This year it was tough to book Michael Ray on the weekend because in-demand acts are often booked at larger venues, Stem said.

"We're excited to have him here," she said.

4-H'er Megan Blair, 19, of Hampstead, said she has attended the concerts for the past four years.

"Last year I had a meet-and-greet with Sam Hunt and that was really cool, so I wanted to come see Michael Ray because they always put on a good show here," Blair said. "I was planning on coming regardless of who was playing because it's always really good, but when I found out it was Michael Ray — who is really big on the radio right now — it made me want to come out even more."

Westminster resident Karen Hinkhaus sat in a folding chair next to her husband, William. She said she had never heard of the headliner or the opening act — country singer Rich Fehle —but likes to attend the County Fair concerts each year.

"We always come down," Hinkhaus said. "The 4-H fair is always a good time."

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