On the Fourth of July, 71-year-old Westminster resident Dora Novosad sometimes thinks back to the days she spent during World War II imprisoned in a German labor camp in her native Ukraine.
And she gives thanks for what she has now.
"This day means a lot because this is a free country," said Ms. Novosad as she watched a country music performance during the Fourth of July celebration yesterday at the Carroll County Farm Museum in Westminster.
"I'm very thankful for every day here, and this is a wonderful event."
Ms. Novosad, a retired textile mill worker, was among an estimated 3,000 county residents who went to the farm museum VTC grounds for a festival that, among other attractions, boasted country music, arts and crafts, painted faces, hot roast beef sandwiches and a seemingly limitless supply of freshly squeezed lemonade.
"It's old-fashioned flavor," said Dottie Freeman, an administrative marketing specialist with the museum who helped organize yesterday's events. "It's a down-home, relaxed, be-yourself, country, bring-your-family kind of get-together."
Organizers said yesterday afternoon that they expected the crowd to swell during the evening hours, reaching 25,000 by the time a $10,000 fireworks show sponsored by the Westminster Jaycees was scheduled to start at 9:30 p.m.
But residents attended yesterday for more than the pyrotechnics. More than 700 lined up during the day for hot turkey and roast beef sandwiches served by the Sykesville chapter of the Knights of Columbus, who tended to huge slabs of animal flesh on an elevated pit.
"You need to keep the meat nice and wet," explained 41-year-old Knights member Gerry MacReady, a government employee, as he marinated a piece of beef with "secret sauce" from a nearby bucket. "Otherwise, it can get kind of dry."
As Mr. MacReady grilled slabs of meat, country musicians, a vaudeville act and groups playing traditional Irish and Scottish music performed on an outdoor stage next to the museum's historic Almshouse. But for all the singing, the day's most popular act may well have been dancers -- the light-footed Carroll County Cloggers.
Susan Withnell, a Westminster kindergarten teacher, said she signed up for clogging lessons after seeing the group perform on this very day six years ago. Yesterday, Ms. Withnell performed with the cloggers, who range in ages from 7 to 74.
"It's kind of addictive," said a clearly nervous Ms. Withnell as she warmed up for her numbers offstage. "But it keeps you in shape."
Back near the museum entrance, Tom Reese, a Westminster schoolteacher, spent yesterday selling fruit from his uncle's orchard.
"In a store, they sell fruit by the pound, but I hate that," said Mr. Reese, 45. "We sell the fruit by the quantity -- bushels, quarts, whatever. And that way we don't have to carry a scale around."
Mr. Reese, as did many who attended yesterday, said he couldn't remember a Fourth of July when he hadn't come to the museum.
Eight-year-old Westminster resident Michael M. Myers said he would remember yesterday's event for a long time because he got his face painted by a local Boy Scout troop.
On one cheek, Michael had a yellow lightning bolt; on the other, a painting of the blue cartoon hedgehog Sonic had been added. "It's better this year than before because I got this," he said, pointing to Sonic.
Organizers set up several other events to appeal to younger festival-goers, including a tug of war, a three-legged race and a volleyball marathon. Adults were more attracted to stands selling everything from jewelry and hand-stenciled baskets to cinnamon buns and pistachios.
"This is good, clean fun," said 79-year-old Edward D. Godfrey, a retired air-conditioning and refrigeration worker who accompanied Ms. Novosad to yesterday's festival.
"When you're closer to the land, you appreciate this country more."