As she walked her lamb to the Howard County Fair show ring through a throng of fellow 4-Hers, visitors and animals, Woodbine resident Kaitlyn Spicer said last year was actually kind of relaxing and easier to show her animals without a crowd present.
That said, the 15-year-old is pretty happy to be back at the fair in person after a year away due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“With the public here, it adds a liveliness to it,” Kaitlyn said Saturday, the fair’s opening day. “It’s fun to educate everyone about the animals.”
Fellow 4-Her and friend Meredith Miller, 15, agreed.
“The fair is a big part of my year,” said Meredith, also of Woodbine. “We really live here for a week. Last year was really an adjustment.”
Saturday was the opening day of the 75th Howard County Fair. Technically last year marked the 75th anniversary of the fair, but since that one was mostly canceled except for a livestock show and an online indoor exhibit, organizers decided to call this year’s the 75th.
Heavy clouds and gray skies didn’t dampen the excitement Saturday as the midway filled with people and lines formed at popular stops like the Glenwood Lions booth and the Glenelg High School food stand, where members of the school’s wrestling team could be found washing potatoes.
“It’s a chance to see a lot of your teammates that you haven’t seen in a while because we didn’t have a season [last year],” said Kian Payne, 17, a rising Glenelg senior, as he worked with the potatoes. Teammate Collin Szczepanski, 14, admitted he was not aware of the potato-washing duty when he joined the team — volunteering at the food stand is an option for all of Glenelg’s sports teams — but he was enjoying it.
“I get free fries and they’re pretty good,” Collin said.
Sharon Ihde, of Eldersburg, is definitely a fair person, she said, typically attending both the Carroll County 4-H and FFA Fair and the Maryland State Fair.
“Just everything — the fair food, 4-H, rides,” Ihde said. “It’s just great being out.”
Sitting at her table on Main Gate Lane, Kathy Johnson, director of agricultural business development for the Howard County Economic Development Authority, handed out a flyer with nine questions, including “What temperature is a freshly laid egg?” to those interested in participating in the Howard County Farm Academy, a county program designed to connect the community and farms through tours and lectures. Answers are provided at various locations throughout the fair, and those who turn in a completed questionnaire receive a small prize.
“We don’t have many farms left,” Johnson said. “Educating the public is huge. It’s nice to be back.”
Johnson, who has worked at the fair in previous years, was hoping for a good week.
“We have a very good crowd today and it’s overcast,” Johnson said Saturday. “We may have … a bigger crowd tomorrow. People are excited to be back. They appreciate being together.”
Kris Thorne, superintendent of the fair’s wool, fleece and fiber show, was very appreciative of the new exhibit hall building, where the wool and fleece displays, along with the indoor 4-H exhibits and local beekeeper displays, are now located.
“It has air conditioning. It’s got wonderful lighting. Everything is bright and clean,” Thorne said as she looked around the new building. “This is really great.”
Members of Howard County Police Department’s Explorer Post 1952, a program that provides youth a chance to learn about law enforcement, were kept busy throughout the first day directing cars where to park. Ranging in age from 14 to 20, the members, dressed in yellow vests, were all smiles as they tossed water bottles to each other and waved cars along — a task they are responsible for the entire week of the fair.
“This is one of the events we do. It’s a police thing, directing traffic,” said Mitchell Calloway, 19, of Laurel, who has spent many of the past fairs directing traffic in the parking lot. “They let us walk in in the evening, and we get to hang out and have fun. We’re all pretty close.”
After volunteering Saturday with the American Legion, Emma Li, 17, was headed home to Woodstock, though she planned to return to the fair later this week.
“It’s been a tradition to come every year since I was 5,” said Li, a rising senior at Marriotts Ridge High School. “I like the rides, the food, and seeing my friends and hanging out.”
Just arriving to the fair, Judy Taylor and her family were thrilled to be back.
“It is great fun for the kids. They love it,” said Taylor, who lives down the street from the fairgrounds and was with family from the Eastern Shore. “They love the chickens, the hares, horses and the rides. We’ve been coming at least 18 years.”
The Howard County Fair runs through Saturday at the Howard County Fairgrounds, 2210 Fairgrounds Road, West Friendship. Tickets can be purchased and more information can be found at howardcountyfairmd.com.