Fresh air, ice cream, cows, nervous 4-H'ers and lots of judges will all be in one place beginning today at the 94th annual Carroll County4-H/FFA Fair.

Admission to the fair at the Agriculture Center in Westminster is free.

Between 18,000 and 20,000 people are expected to attend the event, which runs through Saturday, 4-H Extension Service Agent Robert M. Shirley said.

About 600 exhibitors from 4-H clubs and Future Farmers of America groups are expected to bring 9,200 entries to the exhibit halls and barns.

They're hoping to score big, or at least show an improvement over their work last year.

Winners will take home $15,000 in premiums, Shirley said.

The number of entries is up about 200 from last year because several new 4-H clubs, with about 100 members, have been formed in the past year, he said.

Volunteers -- 400 of them -- will be coordinating the exhibits, herding animals and staffing food booths, Shirley said.

The fair is hard work, but funalso is on the schedule.

A parade is planned at 6 tonight; country bands will entertain Monday, Thursday and Friday nights; and a rockband is on tap Tuesday night.

Following the parade will be the Farm Queen Contest. Jenell R. Rinehart of Taneytown -- who won the county crown last summer, went on to win the Maryland Farm Queen Contest and Tuesday night in Frederick became the 30th Maryland Dairy Princess -- will crown her successor.

Unmarried daughters of county Farm Bureau members ages 16 to 20 may compete. The winner will receive $250 and will be eligible to compete in the state contest for a $2,000 scholarship. The queen serves as an ambassador for agriculture at fairand county events all year.

On Wednesday and Friday nights, veteran fair goers will come early for a good seat at two of the fair's most popular events.

The cake auction, where buyers can sink their teeth into some delicious homemade cakes, pies and breads, is at 7 p.m. Wednesday.

An auctioneer will sell prize-winning 4-H entries to the highest bidders.

Last year, a plate of croissants, baked by Lisa Back of the Carroll Clovers 4-H Club, was the big ticket item. Thepastry, which won the grand champion baked item award, was sold for $600 to Uhler Equipment Sales of Finksburg.

Bidders purchased 157 baked items for $13,973.50 last year. The proceeds benefit the fair.

This year, money raised from the grand champion baked item will bedonated to a scholarship fund started in memory of a Union Bridge 4-H'er who died in a car accident last May.

The Kimberly Dawn Baile Memorial Scholarship Endowment Fund will award a scholarship annuallyto a county 4-H'er.

At 6:30 p.m. Friday, 4-H'ers will parade their prize steers, hogs, lambs and goats before bidders at the livestockauction.

Last year, the grand champion steer was sold for $4,700 to Hampstead developer Martin K. P. Hill and Westminster businessman C. J. Miller. Monica Feeser of Taneytown raised the steer, which weighed 1,175 pounds.

The sale raised $131,228.25 last year. Proceeds go to the 4-H'ers and FFA members who raised the animals.

New at the fair this year is an opportunity for 4-H'ers to compete in the Antique Carriage and Farm Equipment Show at noon today. Entries will be accepted through today, organizer Linda C. Shackelford said.

Participants in the fifth annual show, which is sponsored by The Carroll County Sun, will compete for $1,200 in prizes.

The 4-H competition will have three divisions, said Shackelford, a Manchester resident. In the first division, 4-H'ers will be judged on how well they handle and control the horse. In the second, they will complete five obstacle courses. The third will require them to hook up the horse to a cart, she said.

"It's a fun sport," Shackelford said.

The competition will be judged by Mickie Bowen, a driving instructor and American Driving Society judge from Unionville, Pa. Bowen also is involved with Driving for the Disabled Inc. in Jarrettsville, Harford County.

In addition to the 4-H division, the show will have six other divisions.

Information: 848-4611.

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