Fair days at Timonium 115th year: For many, Maryland State Fair means 'the ten best days of summer.'


FERRIS WHEELS and horse races and Holstein cows and corn dogs followed by cotton candy on the Midway. Yes, the Maryland State Fair is open for business for another run. For thousands of visitors, the fair's advertising slogan got it right: "The ten best days of summer."

From now through Labor Day, the State Fair will dominate the local scene, as it has dominated late summers in Maryland for 115 years. There's something nostalgic about the fair, something that brings out the kid in all of us.

Perhaps it is the livestock being shown and young 4-H members anxiously preparing their lovingly groomed or trained animals for the big moment when they go for the blue ribbon. Perhaps it is the Midway barkers, the alluring games of chance, the carnival rides and the smell of grilled foods wafting through the air. Or perhaps it is the friendly feel of the intimate Timonium Race Course.

The State Fair is both educational and entertaining. It is a treat for a family seeking an inexpensive but different kind of weekend. It lures folks from the farms into the congested inner suburbs and lures urban types to the rural sights and aromas of the fair. It is truly the place where Marylanders come together.

With a $4 admission price, it rates as one of the best buys of the year. Where else can you start at 8 a.m. with the livestock and horse shows and end your days late in the evening listening to the sound of local bands and viewing laser light shows? Where else can you view so many agricultural displays of all varieties (livestock, home and garden, home arts)? Where can you mark the official end of summer in such a relaxing and enjoyable way?

Those who like watching the ponies are in for a special treat. Timonium retains the small-town atmosphere of the old county fair races. The purses are smaller, the track is shorter and tighter and the grandstand is far more cozy than at Pimlico or Laurel. This is the common man's race track, where the small bettor -- and the occasional bettor -- still hold sway.

With good weather, fair officials expect half a million people will take advantage of the 10 days at Timonium. The smart ones will hop on the Central Light Rail Line, which terminates at the fairground's Cow Palace Gate. No parking or traffic hassles or long walks that way. Using light rail only adds to the pleasure of touring the state fair.

Pub Date: 8/24/96

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