The 32nd annual Harford County Farm Fair started Monday under a literal cloud, as thunderstorms rolled in not long after the six-day fair opened to the public at 3 p.m.
The severe weather prompted a tornado warning for Harford County, and high winds knocked down a series of utility poles in Jarrettsville about 11 miles north of the fairgrounds. One man was killed in Carroll County as storms moved through that area Monday afternoon.
Dark clouds gathered north of the Harford County Equestrian Center off of North Tollgate Road in Bel Air, where the Farm Fair is held, around 4 p.m.
A Harford County Sheriff’s Office deputy entered the information tower, where fair officials and workers gathered, warned them about the tornado warning in effect through 4:30 p.m. and urged them to “make some kind of announcement” regarding weather conditions.
Vendors were setting their tents up and workers were putting the finishing touches on carnival rides and games as the storm clouds gathered and the wind picked up, whipping flags on the rides and food booths, stirring up dust clouds, even knocking over loose tables and other items in vendor tents.
Fair staff urged, via the public-address system, vendors to secure loose items and visitors to seek shelter as the weather worsened and a steady rain came down. The sheep and horse barn quickly filled with 4-H youths and their parents, fairgoers and vendors. Goats and sheep staying in the barn bleated, and horses neighed as the crowd of people grew.
People stood at the doors at both ends of the barn to watch the rain storm, and the 4-H members eventually turned back to caring for the animals they brought to the fair for exhibition.
Olive Callon, 11, of Fallston, was among the 4-H exhibitors. She was with her mother, Christen Sullivan, and the six Boer meat goats Olive has raised on her family’s property.
“It’s fun, they’re kind of like dogs,” Olive, who is going into the seventh grade at Fallston Middle School, said of raising goats.
She is exhibiting four male and two female goats; all six were in the same enclosure, and some munched on hay while others briefly bickered with each other and still others came up to the enclosure gate as Olive talked with an Aegis reporter.
“If they know you, after a while they’ll come up to you and be pretty friendly,” she said.
Olive said she plans to put four of the goats up for sale during the annual 4-H Livestock Auction, scheduled for Saturday evening. The livestock sale, when youth members of 4-H and FFA can put farm animals they have raised up for purchase at auction, is one of the most popular events of the farm fair. Nearly $273,000 was raised through last year’s auction, a record-setting amount of money that goes back to the young sellers.
This year is the fourth that Olive, who is a member of the Harford County 4-H Livestock Club, has exhibited animals at the farm fair. She said it can be difficult to part with animals she has raised, especially those that have been with her for a long time.
Olive said the process can be “kind of" upsetting, “but you have to let them go at some point.”
Sullivan, her mother, said Olive and Sullivan’s 15-year-old stepson, Ham Sullivan, raise animals for their 4-H projects and the fair in the family’s yard. Ham Sullivan is exhibiting steer at the fair this year, she said.
“4-H, it’s a wonderful program,” said Sullivan, who noted the program encourages teamwork and “brings the kids back to the salt-of-the-earth type projects.”
The severe weather passed after about 30 minutes, and people began moving around the fairgrounds under a light rain after fair staff gave the all-clear. Rain happened periodically Monday night and more is predicted for Tuesday. The rest of the week is expected to be sunny with temperatures in the 80s, though, according to the National Weather Service website.
“The rest of the week looks to be beautiful weather,” Amy McClaskey, co-chair of the fair board, said Monday.
A number events during the 2018 farm fair were canceled because of rain throughout that week, although the weather had cleared by the final evening, in time for the livestock auction.
Visitors can check out multiple exhibitions and events at the fair this week, including a horse-pulling demonstration on the track Wednesday at 6:30 p.m., a concert with Dean Crawford & The Dunn’s River Band Friday starting at 7 p.m. and the Lucas Oil Truck & Tractor Pull at 6:30 p.m. Saturday. The livestock auction is scheduled to start at 5 p.m. Saturday in the 4-H show ring. A full schedule of events is online at http://www.farmfair.org.
“We’re hoping to hit some of those big numbers we had last year,” McClaskey said. “I think that’s one of the best [livestock] auctions we’ve had in quite some time.”