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There are a number of fun and worthwhile events in Carroll County that bring out local residents and bring in visitors from outside of the county, among them the Maryland Wine Festival, the Penguin Random House Book Fair, the PEEPShow and some of the municipal gatherings. But nothing says “Carroll County” like the Carroll County 4-H & FFA Fair, held for the past 65 years at the Carroll County Agriculture Center in Westminster.

The fair officially begins Saturday, July 27, although some judging will take place and the truck and tractor pull will be held on Friday. The fair officially runs through Friday, Aug. 2, although the unofficial finale, the Demolition Derby, is on Aug. 3. But whether you consider it a seven-day or a nine-day event, consider stopping by and supporting a tradition that means a lot not only to those involved but to those who have participated in or enjoyed the fair over its long history.

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“If they’ve never experienced agriculture in the area they should come out and dive into it. It’s put on full display,” Jim Weishaar, chairman of the Fair Board. “You get to interact with very information-guided youth who have a lot to tell you about their projects and what they learned and it gives you a good feel about what Carroll County was rooted around.”

Indeed it does.

The fair traces its beginnings to 1897, when it was held near Taneytown. It reportedly attracted some 4,000 visitors around the turn of the century, a huge number for the time that more than tripled to 14,000 by 1914, according to “The Carroll County Fair 1897-1997: Celebrating 100 Years." The fair moved to the Carroll County Agriculture Center in 1954. These days, it is estimated that some 40,000 people per year drop by over the course of the fair.

There should be something for everyone. In addition to the truck and tractor pull on Friday and the demo derby eight days later, look for vintage grain truck races on Saturday, the Ms. Carroll County Farm Bureau Contest on Sunday, Wild West Night on Tuesday, the annual cake auction on Wednesday, and the return of the country music concert — Riley Green is this year’s headliner — on Thursday. Additionally, there will be chainsaw carving, pony and mechanical bull rides, contests, a silent auction and several local bands playing.

What the fair is really about, of course, is supporting the young people who are continuing the county’s agricultural tradition and truly are the future, showcasing their animals and projects, some qualifying for state events. Visitors can check out livestock, gardening, crafts, fashion, fine arts and technology on display, the exhibits the culmination of many hours of hard work put in by dedicated Carroll County youths. Their work can be rewarded not only by the judges but by fair-goers who choose to participate in the annual livestock sale.

We’ve often referred to the fair’s mission statement, posted on its website, that includes the goal for 4-H and FFA members to “develop positive self-esteem and valuable life lessons on which to build successful futures.” The statement further states that the fair aims to: “Showcase the successes and talents of our youth. Create an event that embraces family values. Celebrate our agricultural heritage.”

By making some food or drink purchases after dropping by to walk around and enjoy the fair for free or by attending one of the few paid events such as the Demolition Derby or by buying a cake during an auction that traditionally raises tens of thousands of dollars, patrons will be ensuring the fair continues — perhaps for another 65 years? — and supporting a most worthwhile mission.

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