Blessed with just about the best weather possible and embellished with a brand-new carnival, the Harford County Farm Fair seems to have had another successful year, organizers said.
Attendance numbers were still being tallied Monday, Aimee O'Neill said, but she called the 26th annual event a long weekend of fun and entertainment for families and residents from all over.
Attendance at the fair, which ran from Thursday to Sunday, is always driven by weather, she said, which should translate into high numbers once again.
"The weather was fabulous," O'Neill said. "We had great attendance."
The new midway that was the talk of the fair was also a big hit, she said.
It also meant the Harford fair will look more like other county and state fairs in the area, with carnival rides augmenting the animals and ag focus.
"The feedback primarily was positive. There were some people who really appreciated the character of the Farm Fair without the midway and felt that was a unique part of the Farm Fair and were sad to see that go away," O'Neill said Monday.
But despite that minority view, O'Neill said organizers plan to bring back the carnival next year.
She added the company that runs the carnival is based in Kingsville, which fits in nicely with the fair's focus on community and supporting local business.
"The carnival did very well. The carnival vendor was pleased," she said. "They were very happy, so we are looking to partner with them again."
"All in all, we felt it was complementary and just worked very well for us," she said.
Participation in many activities stayed high and the 4-H events seemed to be thriving.
"The livestock auction was probably one of the best we have had," she said, adding both prices and participants were as good as ever. "It was just a really strong showing."
No serious incidents were reported at the event. O'Neill said she heard about a couple of allergic reactions to bee stings and nuts, which were treated by emergency officials on-site.
She did not have much information about those but said the fair was "pretty quiet."
"We had a quiet and happy fair, and people seemed to enjoy themselves," she said.
Traffic also went well, and O'Neill said reducing the number of locations from which people were shuttled to the fair was a good idea.
Others agreed with that assessment.
"The attendance was good and it was good weather," Reg Traband, a member of the fair board and longtime volunteer for the event, said. "We saw a lot of families with children."
One event that did not materialize this year was the Food and Wine Fiesta, which tries to promote local food producers.
O'Neill said she realized the fair board has to start promoting it earlier to get a better response, since permits have to be lined up by January.
"We just didn't get the word out properly," O'Neill said about the fiesta. "There was an interest, it's just that the coordination didn't happen."
O'Neill also hoped to get the fair's ducks in a row earlier in general.
The Aegis: Top stories
"We are going to start now to really get on people's calendars, get vendors lined up," she said, noting the fair got a new website through Piccirilli Dorsey creative agency.
"We have got some new ideas with promoting it," O'Neill said. "It's a big event. It takes a lot of coordination."
With that in mind, O'Neill and the others have some big ideas for future fairs – if they can get a little more financial support.
"We would love to get a sponsor so we can have a big outdoor rodeo," she said.
The rodeo has been gone from the fair for about six or seven years but O'Neill said she believes there would be a demand for it.
Other ideas include possibly making the fair even more similar to the Maryland State Fair.
"People have been asking about that [rodeo], or some kind of showcase activity, like a concert," O'Neill said. "We just cannot risk those types of things without sponsors."