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The Harford County Farm Fair is returning in 2021, but will be mostly virtual this summer

The Harford County Farm Fair will return in 2021, but as a primarily virtual event for the public, during the last week of July. The summertime staple for more than three decades will still include community competitions, 4-H exhibits and contests, and 4-H and FFA livestock shows and sale, organizers announced.

Many of the activities that drew large portions of the public however, such as a carnival, live entertainment, games and vendor stands will not take place this year.

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The Board of Directors made the announcement late last week, noting that preparations for the 34th annual fair started when a number of COVID-19 restrictions were still in place. Capacity limits did not support opening to large numbers of fairgoers and vaccinations were still months away, according to the announcement.

Organizers also cited a lack of on-site parking at the Farm Fair grounds, located in the 600 block of North Tollgate Road in Bel Air, which necessitates using school buses from several remote locations to transport fairgoers to the grounds.

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“We did not feel comfortable asking our fairgoers (as well as the bus personnel) to handle this,” the announcement states. “It would be impossible to have a successful Farm Fair with such limited attendance and under the restrictions that would need to be in place.”

The virtual Farm Fair this year will conclude with a 4-H/FFA livestock auction on Saturday, July 31. While the auction will be live-streamed via the Farm Fair’s website for spectators, there will not be an online bidding option. All bidders will be required to attend the auction in person.

All other events during the 2021 fair, scheduled for July 26-31, will take place online in some capacity.

Harford County 4-H will be providing registration and entry information for exhibitions and contests. Most 4-H indoor exhibit categories will be open, and there will also be a 4-H dog show, horse show, bike rodeo, lawn mower and large tractor driving contests done virtually. Those events will be filmed and photographed to be posted online during Farm Fair week.

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There will also be daily shows for 4-H and FFA livestock that take place at the fairgrounds, divided by species — beef cattle, dairy, sheep, goats, swine, poultry and rabbits. Animals will be brought for their showing, then return home. The shows, however, will not be open to the general public. Winning animals and exhibitors will have their photographs posted to the Farm Fair and 4-H’s websites and social media.

Community competitions such as talent, funniest animal and farm baby costume contests and most “home arts” categories will be open to anyone who lives within 25 miles of the fairgrounds.

Vendors and sponsors are still wanted for the Farm Fair. For a fee, businesses and organizations can have their logo, website and additional information shown on the website and social media during the coming year. Organizers are also encouraging them to provide gift certificates and door prizes that fair attendees can win during daily drawings.

Anyone interested in more information about the event should visit farmfair.org or email info@farmfair.org.

Last year, the board of directors opted to cancel the weeklong fair entirely, determining they couldn’t put on an event that typically drew thousands of people to the fairgrounds due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Members of Harford’s agricultural and business communities did organize several livestock events and a sale for 4-H and FFA youth at the nearby Harford County Equestrian Center, so they didn’t have to miss out on opportunities caused by the fair’s cancelation.

While most of the restrictions in place last year have been lifted, Harford County’s COVID-19 metrics continue to be some of the highest in the state. As of Tuesday, the county’s positivity rate of 8.56% was the second-worst in Maryland, behind Somerset County, and the rolling average new case rate of 32.72 per 100,000, was third-worst, behind Baltimore and Baltimore County.

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