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Farm Fair returns to Harford Equestrian Center next week with 4H, tractor pulls, carnival

Farm Fair returns to Harford Equestrian Center next week with 4H, tractor pulls, carnival
Setup has begun this week for the 32nd annual Harford County Farm Fair, which returns next week and runs 3 to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the Harford Equestrian Center on Tollgate Road. (Erika Butler/The Aegis / Baltimore Sun)

The 32nd annual Harford County Farm Fair begins next week at the Equestrian Center and organizers are hoping for better weather than during the 2018 fair.

Though 90-degree days are predicted for next week, it’s still better than the “10 inches of rain we got last year,” Farm Fair co-chair Aimee O’Neill said.

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“We basically canceled the fair last year and didn’t have any of the special events,” she said. “The 4-H had a great fair, but it was boots all week, muddy, no one on the fairgrounds — it was a mess.”

But she and the other organizers are “ever hopeful, ever optimistic” this year will be better.

“Like farmers, we plant a seed and hope it grows,” she said.

The fair starts Monday and runs from 3 to 10 p.m. each day through Thursday and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

Tickets are $6 per person Monday through Thursday and $8 a person Friday and Saturday; $2 each day for children ages 6 to 12; $5 for anyone with a military ID, and free for children 5 and younger with a paying adults.

The Farm Fair typically draws thousands of people to the Equestrian Center, located at 608 N. Tollgate Road in Bel Air.

Details on the fair, including a full schedule of events and transportation, can be found at www.farmfair.org.

It’s a combination showcase of 4-H and Future Farmers of America with the county’s agricultural heritage and community, O’Neill said.

“It’s just a lot of family fun. It’s a place to make memories,” she said. “Whether it’s visiting the animals and kids showing animals, the home arts building filled with crafts and vegetables or people who want to compete in watermelon eating or the spelling bee — all sorts of memories are made and it’s a tradition.

"Traditions are important and there’s great joy in participating in tradition.”

Harford County Executive Glassman Barry Glassman, who used to raise sheep at his Darlington farm and show them at the Maryland State Fair, said the Farm Fair is “still our main celebration of our agricultural heritage.”

“Native Harford Countians and newer residents enjoy its traditions and 4-H activities,” Glassman said.

The 32th annual Harford County Farm Fair opens Monday afternoon at the Equestrian Center off North Tollgate Road off Bel Air. The fair runs through Saturday, July 27.
The 32th annual Harford County Farm Fair opens Monday afternoon at the Equestrian Center off North Tollgate Road off Bel Air. The fair runs through Saturday, July 27. (Karl Merton Ferron / Baltimore Sun)

Many of the same components of fairs past will be back this year, including the relatively new carnival, the Chef’s Challenge on Tuesday, tractor pulls on Wednesday, the literary spelling bee and antique tractor pulls on Thursday, two top bands on Friday — the Dave Mark Band from 1:30 to 5:30 p.m. and Dean Crawford and the Dunn’s River Band from 7 to 10 p.m. — and the Cowboy Mounted Shooting Association on Saturday.

New this year will be games of bubble soccer all day every day.

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“For a fee, people can subject themselves to being encased in an inflated ball, competing in an area on the grass and try to maneuver those,” O’Neill said. “It’s all the rage.”

Beer and wine vendors will return, including Slate Brewery, Independent Brewing Company and Harford Winery. They’ll be by the mechanical bull.

“That’s always great fun next to the beer and wine. It creates and provides entertainment,” O’Neill said.

The Harford County Farm Fair began in 1988 following many years without a fair in Harford County, when the Harford County Fair, held at the site of the former racetrack, ceased because the property was sold and Harford Mall was built.

The 4-H program held an annual show but the program was languishing in the mid-1980s, O’Neill said.

Her father, John H. O’Neill, the auctioneer for the livestock show; Dr. Richard O. Cook, a large animal vet; Page Edwards with the Equestrian Center; and Elke Neuburger, with the 4H program, “worked with county government to re-institute a county fair with 4-H as the central focus,” O’Neill said.

Neuburger and Reg Traband, original board members, are still on the Farm Fair board of directors.

“It’s been an all-volunteer board for 32 years,” O’Neill said. “Obviously community is very important to quite a few people. We have 300 regular volunteers taking time to give the community a good time.

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