Homemade ice cream, pony rides and rows and rows of antiques and arts and crafts attracted more than 10,000 people to the 25th anniversary celebration yesterday of the Carroll County Farm Museum in Westminster.
Country music blared and little children petted piglets, lambs and goats. Farm enthusiasts reveled in the antique farming equipment, and families rode wagons pulled by horses and mules.
The event drew people from all over the state. Judson Thompson, 67, and his wife, Miriam, 65, traveled from Montgomery County to comb the antique tables for Royal Doulton porcelain statuettes, but failed to find any. They did not leave empty-handed, buying home-baked blueberry and French apple pies they bought from a local baker.
Antonio Davis, 26, an electrician, took his wife, Patricia, 23, and their 5-month-old daughter, Jade, to the farm museum from Baltimore. Jade was too young to appreciate the farm animals, but during their journey through the maze of antique dishes, decorative frames and dolls, they found two small pillows for her nursery.
Others who attended the event had taken picnic lunches and toured the 104-acre museum, originally the site of the "County Home," or almshouse, when it opened in 1853. As many as 50 people -- ranging from the poor to the mentally ill -- sometimes resided there. They farmed the land, eating a portion of what they harvested and selling the rest at the market in town.
"The people who were here had no family," said Carol Shook, the farm museum's volunteer coordinator. "The people who lived here were just dumped on the front porch."
When Shook was a child, she visited the almshouse as part of a Girl Scout service project. Although she appreciates the almshouse now, she doesn't have pleasant memories of it from her childhood.
"A couple of doors were lined with lead and were locked because a couple of the people were insane," she recalled.
The almshouse closed its doors to the poor in 1965, but opened a year later as part of an exhibit to preserve the county's agricultural beginnings.
The poorhouse, originally a combination of white-washed walls and sparse furnishings, has been turned into a display showcasing the lifestyle and material wealth of the typical 19th-century farmer. The poorhouse now contains rooms chock-full of furniture, clothing and appliances from the 1800s that were donated by various groups and families in the county.
Jean Scott, who has been a caretaker for the farm museum for 25 years, says the museum attracts more than 100,000 visitors annually -- up from 20,000 in the year after it opened in 1966. "The reason the farm museum was conceived was to show how the farmers and landowners lived," she said. "It's an educational facility that keeps the history of Carroll County alive. It teaches people how life was."