A tribute to 'gentle giants' is planned at Oatlands


Labor Day weekend offers many fine opportunities for daytripping -- crab races in Crisfield, boat races on the Chesapeake Bay, a koi festival near Frederick, arts and crafts in Lancaster, Pa., and a tour of horse farms in Maryland's "horse country."

One popular Labor Day weekend event is Draft Horse and Mule Day on Saturday at Oatlands Plantation near Leesburg, Va. In fact, it is the best attended event of the year at Oatlands. Sponsored by the Virginia Draft Horse and Mule Association, it's an occasion to pay tribute to the workhorse, those "gentle giants" that once were the mainstay of the American farm. Teams of Clydesdale, Belgian, Suffolk and Percheron workhorses will compete in obstacle races, plowing demonstrations, big pulls and carriage demonstrations.

In the big-pull competition, horses attempt to pull logs weighing as much as 4 tons. Another event is the mule-jumping contest, in which trainers try to coax mules over a fence. There will also be a working blacksmith, craft demonstrations, live country music, food and tours of the mansion and its 4-acre formal garden, along with wagon rides, pony rides and face-painting for children. Hours are 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Admission is $5; $3 for ages 7 to 12; free for ages 7 and under. Oatlands is on U.S. Route 15, six miles south of Leesburg. For information, call (703) 777-3174. For the past 13 years Long's Park Art and Craft Festival has attracted thousands of visitors from all over the East Coast and beyond to Lancaster, Pa., during the holiday weekend (Saturday through Labor Day Monday).

Recognized as one of the top art and craft festivals in the country, the event showcases the work of more than 185 of the country's finest artists and craftspeople, who were selected by jury process from over 1,200 entries. You will find many unusual items as well as jewelry, furniture, ceramics, painting and apparel, priced from under $10 to several thousand dollars.

The atmosphere of the festival is enhanced by its setting. The park contains a beautiful lake with ducks and swans, a petting zoo and playground facilities. Throughout the weekend you can hear a variety of musical entertainment by local, regional and national groups. Another attraction is the restaurant fair, which offers specialties of local restaurants all three days.

Hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday. Admission is $7; children 16 and under free. The park is on the Harrisburg Pike, an exit off U.S. Route 30. For information, call (717) 295-7001.

Crab derby and fair

Another traditional holiday weekend event is the National Hard Crab Derby and Fair in the Eastern Shore town of Crisfield. Each year governors from other states sponsor a crab in the Governors Cup Crab Race. The race precedes the annual Hard Crab Derby, which this year celebrates its 45th year on the grounds of Somers Cove Marina on Saturday afternoon.

The three-day event kicks off on Friday with a crab-cooking contest. That evening rides and games will open at festival grounds, and there will be dancing in the Crab Bowl. Saturday's agenda is a full one, with a swim meet, street parade, arts and crafts, crab-picking contest and musical entertainment, with the crab races at 3 p.m.

Two-hour cruises will be offered all three days aboard authentic Chesapeake Bay skipjacks from the City Dock. The event concludes on Sunday with boat-docking contests, tractor pulls, dancing, musical entertainment and a fireworks display at 9:30 p.m.

Festival hours are 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Friday; 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Admission is $3 per day for adults; $1 for ages 6 to 12, accompanied by parents. For information, call (410) 968-2682.

Maryland Million

The Maryland Million is a tour of horse farms in Baltimore, Carroll, Cecil, Harford and Howard counties next weekend from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. This is the second year for the event, which allows visitors to see the daily operations of a horse farm, find out about various breeds and visit attractions in each of the counties.

The Cecil County tour will be held Labor Day Monday only. Farms in the other four counties will be open Saturday and Sunday. Tour tickets include visits to the Boordy Vineyards in Baltimore County; the Carroll County Farm Museum; Ladew Gardens in Harford County; and Savage Mill, the B&O; Railroad Museum and the Firehouse Museum in Howard County. Monday's tour ticket includes admittance to the annual Labor Day Races at Fair Hill. Ticket holders can take up to three days to visit all the farms and attractions.

Tickets are priced at $15 for adults; $7.50 for ages 12 and under. The price also includes admission to the Maryland Million Cup Polo Match at Ladew Gardens Sept. 20 and Maryland Million Day (an annual race day in which all entries must be sired by a Maryland stallion) at Pimlico Sept. 26. The tour will benefit the Maryland Council of Equine Therapies Inc. For information, call (410) 252-2100.

Koi festival

Heading west, you can attend the 11th annual Koi Festival at Lilypons Water Gardens near Frederick Saturday and next Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Koi are the colorful Japanese imperial fish known for their longevity, and the gardens have a large selection of koi and other ornamental fish.

There will be an exhibition of the koi and judging by two regional koi clubs. Musical entertainment, arts and crafts, a jousting tournament (Saturday only), and lectures on water gardening are other weekend attractions. For an additional small fee, there will be paddle boats, canoes, pony and carriage rides, and a large selection of international food.

Admission is free, but a $4 parking donation will be requested for the benefit of the Frederick County Art Association's scholarship fund. Take Interstate 70 west to Frederick Exit 54. Turn right on state Route 85 south, go eight miles and turn left on Lilypons Road and go one mile. For information, call (301) 874-5133.

Colonial-style events

Two events are scheduled next weekend in Williamsburg, Va. Publick Times re-creates the atmosphere of the Colonial period at a time when court was in session and people flocked to the capital for business and to socialize. The event will be celebrated in the Historic Area from Saturday through Labor Day Monday with dances, games, auctions, a Colonial-style horse race, barbecues, magic shows, theatrical presentations and military reviews. Merchants clad in period costume will hawk 18th century wares, and food will be for sale. Admission is free with a ticket to the Historic Area. Call (800) HISTORY.

At Jamestown Settlement, a 17th century children's festival is planned on Saturday. Music and dance of the 17th century, games, crafts, magic and storytelling will be part of the entertainment for all ages from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $7 for adults; $3.50 for ages 6 to 12. Jamestown Settlement is on Virginia Route 31 south at the Colonial Parkway, southwest of Williamsburg. Call (804) 229-1607.

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