Showing sheep or pigs amid the pine shavings and packed bleachers of the main show ring puts some 4-Hers in the spotlight at the 51st annual Howard County Fair in West Friendship.
But the fair, which ended yesterday, offered some other folks their own 15 minutes of fame. From the midway to the horse show ring, people smiled and laughed as they won prizes and rewards for their throws in games or their talents on stage, showing there's more to a county fair than cows and pigs.
"It's a bit of Broadway right here in Howard County," said Michelle Lambert, 12, as she stretched in her rainbow-sequined bodysuit before the talent show. "You get to perform outside with the fresh air, the big lights on the stage and a crowd of people sitting in the grass watching.
"I don't like performing on concrete, but I guess I'll settle because it is a chance to share in the spotlight of the whole fair of kids with their pigs and cows or arts and crafts," she said.
Marielle Lambert, 14, of Clarksville rode her way to a blue ribbon in the 4-H bicycle contest. "People need to realize that 4-H and the fair are more than just animals," she said. "It's exciting to win something in a different part of the fair that most people don't realize exists.
"Winning a bicycle competition or a pie-baking competition has the same thrill as getting a blue ribbon for the farm queen contest or a sheep show."
For Amanda Carrier, 12, from Columbia, a blue ribbon in the two-hour bicycle competition helped chase away memories of an unhappy finish last year.
Before this year's competition, she practiced for months on her mountain bike to avoid hitting curbs and crossing the obstacle-course boundary lines, which cost her a blue ribbon in the competition last year.
"Usually I'm just competing against myself at home practicing, but here, at the fair, it's exciting to get to compete against others, but it is a bit scary," she said, as she waited anxiously for the award announcement. "Plus, like my mom says, 'Competition builds character.' "
Bianca Ciotti -- who is 6 1/2 to be exact, she says -- learned a lesson in patience and character building as she tried repeatedly to win a goldfish at the ball toss.
"I got it! I got it!" she said, jumping up and down after her white ping-pong ball bounced into a glass fish bowl. "I finally got my fish."
Her friend Dianna Lovins, who says she is precisely 6 3/4 , added: "I knew you could do it. All of your practice worked."
Bianca's father, Jim Ciotti, 50, said he could have done without the wait for the black and white goldfish in a plastic bag.
"This is an annual tradition for us, coming to the fair for her to win one of those tiny, little fish," he said, gathering the prizes. "Yesterday she was bawling after she didn't get the ball in.
"For all this I could have gone to the store and bought her a fish, but it's the thrill of winning it at the fair that gets her."
Further down the midway, Shana Wyant, 16, of Woodbine braved catcalls and jokes from the crowd as she dunked a firefighter with her fast-pitch throw at the dunking booth's bulls-eye.
"Yes!" she yelled as the firefighter hit the water. She gave her girlfriend a high-five . "These guys got me soaked with a water gun before so I had to get them back.
"It feels good to wing that ball up there and knock him in the water, especially after hearing him say girls can't throw hard enough," she said. "This is my victory."
A few steps away in the horse ring, getting a blue ribbon proved a tough task among 60 riders in barrel racing -- a new event at the fair.
"It's only 17 to 20 seconds to be in the spotlight and show how fast you can ride," said Samantha Collins, 12, of Sykesville, whose 18.4-second run was one of the fastest times posted in the contest. "It can make you nervous, but the adrenalin rush is overwhelming."
But the excitement of performing on the fair's 25-by-40-foot stage behind the cow barns gave Lara Haase, 15, of Columbia a stomach full of butterflies.
"It's a lot of fun to play, but it's nerve-wracking the lights, the stage, the people," she said, as she and her father tuned her violin. "I don't come out here to play classical music, but to do my fiddle music.
"That, after all, fits in with the whole atmosphere of the pigs, goats and sheep."
Pub Date: 8/18/96