New passport guide is just the ticket as Howard fair opens

The 73rd annual Howard County Fair in West Friendship kicks off this Saturday.
The 73rd annual Howard County Fair in West Friendship kicks off this Saturday. (Alan White / For The Howard Coun / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Growing up on a small farm in Western Howard County, Ellie Feaga has been exposed to a life in agriculture since her birth, including the yearly Howard County Fair.

“I don’t think I have ever missed a fair since I was alive,” said Feaga, 16, of Woodbine.


At this year’s 73rd fair, which opens Saturday and runs through Aug. 11, Feaga is debuting a project she has been working on for two years, a self-guided passport tour of the county fair.

When fairgoers enter the Howard County Fairgrounds, they can pick up a free passport that is filled with questions pertaining to agriculture. As they walk around the fair, they will notice informational signs providing the answers to the questions.


According to Feaga, the questions range in scope, such as “What is a lamb?” to “What are the record sizes of certain livestocks?”

All passport participants receive a prize — a stress ball in the shape of a farm animal.

The passport tour is Feaga’s 4-H Clover Diamond project, a feat that mirrors an Eagle Scout project in Boy Scouts. 4-H is the nation’s largest youth development program that has a focus on agriculture, according to the organization’s website.

While youth summer employment is decreasing each year nationwide, Howard County offers opportunities for teenagers looking to develop job skills.

Feaga, who has been involved in 4-H since she was 5 years old, said that “it’s very cool” to see her project shared among many people.


“Agriculture education is something that is very important to me and I hope it becomes more important to others,” said Feaga, who one day wants to become a lobbyist for agriculture-related policy.

Martin Hamilton, the Howard County Fair Association Inc.’s secretary said the fair is proud of its agricultural heritage.

“I think the goal of the fair is to promote agriculture in Howard County … we now have multiple generations removed from agriculture who don’t understand where their food comes from,” Hamilton said.

The inaugural county fair was held on Aug. 21 and 22, 1946 at Brendel’s Manor Park, in West Ellicott City. The first fair made a profit of $2,000.

In March 1947, the Howard County Fair Association Inc. was established as a non-profit corporation focusing on agricultural education. The association moved the 1947 fair to Ellicott City High School and had a 30 cents admissions charge.

In the beginning years, the fair’s location moved between Brendel’s Manor Park, Ellicott City High School and the Laurel Racetrack.

In 1953, the fair found a permanent home in West Friendship, where the fairground sits today, according to Kim Sullivan, who sits on the association’s board of directors.

Sullivan said that the fair has changed overtime, including the length of the event- from two days to eight- and the welcome addition of air conditioning in some barns. Certain aspects of the “original flavor of the fair” are still maintained, she said.

“It is still that annual celebration of what agriculture and community life was like back then,” Sullivan said, adding, “One of the true joys of the fair is that there is something for everybody.”

When the fair opens on Aug. 4, barns will be filled with a variety of farm animals including cows, horses, pigs and rabbits. Baked items, vegetables and crafts will also be on display and the midway will be filled with amusement park rides and carnival games.

Live entertainment is scheduled throughout the week, from musical groups to a demolition derby and a tractor pull.

For children, a petting zoo will feature baby chickens, baby ducks, rabbits, a pony, pigs and more.

Young fairgoers will also be able to participate in two new events - a model horse show where they can enter their own plastic horse and a horse photography contest that features a horse photo they took, according to Hamilton.

Children of all ages can take part in a skill-a-thon that tests them on different agriculture topics from identifying animal feed to different breeds of sheep.

A traditional event that garners interest is the pig races, Sullivan said. There are multiple pig races held throughout the week but people still call up each year and ask “Is the pig race still there?”

Classic fair food is another yearly attraction.

There’s pit beef sandwiches, grilled top round roast on a bun, fried dough, fried Oreos, sausages, seafood, hand-dipped ice cream and more.

Sullivan enjoys the French fries from Glenelg High School’s food booth.

“The fair visit isn’t complete without a cup of fries,” Sullivan said.

The association wants all fairgoers to have a great time enjoying agriculture and celebrating community life, according to Sullivan.

“Whether it’s watching a little kid running up and down a barn aisle with a smile and ice cream all over their face or an older farmer showing off a prized cow … we want them to enjoy the fair that we are proud to put on,” Sullivan said.

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