It's famous, fun, familial, fancy, old-fashioned and free.
It's the 98th annual Carroll County 4-H/FFA Fair, which unofficially opens with activities Sunday at the Carroll County Agriculture Center on Smith Avenue in Westminster.
"The fair doesn't really open full time until Monday, when we have entries, the parade and farm queen contest," said Robert M. Shirley, 4-H extension agent.
On Sunday, early birds can come out for a dog show at 9 a.m., followed by an auto driving contest and a rocket show at 10 a.m. The center's kitchen will be open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. to sell lunches and other fare.
Some large animal exhibits will start arriving Sunday evening, and there will be a steady stream of food, craft, garden, clothing and other entries coming in throughout the week. Entertainment, auctions, weight pulls, contests, cow chip bingo and carriage shows will round out the fair.
Monday's parade, at 7 p.m., will include 4-H club floats and marching units, antique and horse-drawn vehicles, and commercial entries. The parade will begin at Center and Gist streets, go down Gist to Smith Avenue and then to the Ag Center.
Afterward, the Farm Queen for 1995 will be crowned. Jessica Fritz and Tracey Clagett are vying for the title.
"We have something entirely new and different on Tuesday -- the gospel sing," Mr. Shirley said. "We have 12 Carroll County churches with choirs that will be performing. We had such a big response that we'll probably have to turn churches away next year."
This first gospel sing is expected to be made into an annual event at the fair.
Also Tuesday will be the popular horse pull, in which teams of horses try to pull the most weight on a sled. The pull starts at 7 p.m.
Wednesday's highlight will be the cake auction, in which champion and blue ribbon cakes and other baked items are sold. Proceeds will help pay fair expenses.
"We expect a very large price from the champion," Mr. Shirley said. "Last year's $23,800 was a record for the total sales. This is one way we can keep fair admission free."
Though the champion items have been known to go for more than $1,000, the prices at auction for most of the baked goods are within reach of the average family that wants to take home a treat, Mr. Shirley said.
Thursday is Senior Citizens' Day. Seniors can bring in their best crafts, foods and art to be judged.
"We'll have entertainment, refreshments and special activities just for the seniors that day," said Mr. Shirley.
Also Thursday, the mule pull, similar to the horse pull, will be at 7:30 p.m. Friday will feature four more traditionally popular events: the English horse show at 8:30 a.m., the dairy show at 9 a.m., a roast beef dinner from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. and the livestock sale at 6 p.m.
Participating 4-H'ers get to keep the money from the champion animals they auction, though many charities or scholarship funds also are recipients from generous donors.
"You can make a special donation to any charity you want to, then the animal is re-auctioned again," Mr. Shirley said. "We get a good many donations that way."
Saturday, the last day of the fair, is an opportunity for those who can't attend the fair during the week to see the exhibits.
"We've added a few things because we want Saturday to be a full, big day and we want people to understand that this is a full day for those who couldn't come through the week," Mr. Shirley said.
Activities that day will include the dairy goat show at 8:30 a.m., the antique horse-drawn carriage show at 10 a.m., Kay Cee the Clown all afternoon, a small animal dress-up contest at 3 p.m., an antique tractor pull at 4 p.m., cow chip bingo at 5 p.m. and the Performing Arts Club at 5:15 p.m.
Tickets for cow chip bingo will be on sale during the week. The antique tractor pull is expected to continue well into the evening, Mr. Shirley said.
For stage entertainment, scheduled performers include the Renegade Cloggers at 8 p.m. Monday, Karaoke at 7 p.m. Thursday, Branded at 7:30 p.m. Friday and John Bressler at 8 p.m. Saturday.
"We're going to have an awfully good fair this year," Mr. Shirley said.
The kitchen at the Ag Center will open 7 a.m. Monday through Saturday during the fair. For information on activities, call the Extension Office at 848-4611.