Hurricane Floyd shut down the Anne Arundel County Fair in Crownsville today for the first time in its 47-year history.
The storm's high winds, the governor's declaration of a state of emergency and the announcement that county schools would be closed today helped in the decision, said fair manager John Kozenski Jr.
Kozenski also recalled that keeping the fair open at Sandy Point State Park during a storm several years ago proved to be a disaster as tents were uprooted.
"We don't need that much excitement, not in my lifetime," he said.
The fair opened yesterday afternoon, but soon gatekeepers began admitting people free as a few die-hard fans weathered the rain to stop by. Carnival rides could not be inspected because of the rain, and several farmers delayed bringing in livestock.
Organizers were expecting to close early yesterday evening after the Fair Queen pageant and postpone opening ceremonies today.
Kozenski said he would decide today whether the fair could reopen tomorrow.
The annual slice of country life is scheduled to run through the weekend, competing with the Maryland Renaissance Festival -- also in Crownsville -- and culminate in a concert Sunday by country music duo The Kinleys.
Despite the bad weather and closure, organizers say they hope to see thousands of loyal fair-goers pass through the gates. In 1987, when it rained four out of the fair's five days, it drew about 20,000 visitors, Kozenski said.
"With some of them, it's still a tradition," Kozenski said. "Others have children or grandchildren that enter stuff, and they want to see it. A lot of people come for the demonstrations -- quilting, honey extraction."
The fair displays many facets of farming life, reaching back to an era when cornstalks and tobacco plants dominated the county's landscape. For farmers and 4-H'ers who have spent all season preparing for the event, it's a harvest of products and public appreciation.
"It all goes back to taking pride in something you care about and you think you did [it] well," Kozenski said.
The competitions and displays portray skills that were essential to rural and farm life: gardening, canning, husbandry, hog-calling, scarecrow making -- even husband-calling.
"You call your husband's name nice and loud and clear, and we rate you on it," said Lisa Anderson, who organizes the competition. "Country people go out there [in the field] and call their husband so they can come eat dinner."
Competing scents -- some fragrant, some pungent -- lead visitors to attractions that include homemade pies and cakes; potted plants and fresh-cut flowers; calves, sheep and baby ducks for petting; and livestock judged for ribbons and for sale.
The homespun lifestyle showcased at the fair can seem almost foreign in a county where suburban sprawl is gobbling up farmland. According to the Maryland Agricultural Statistics Service, the county went from having 567 farms in 1987 to 412 in 1997, the latest year for which statistics are available. In the same time, farmed acres in the county dipped from 42,000 to 34,000, the statistics show.
That makes the fair all the more necessary, organizers say. Like the canned goods rural residents used to squirrel away for leaner times, Kozenski said, it is important to preserve the skills that are showcased in the annual celebration.
"If anything happened to the computer age, we'd be in the dark age," Kozenski said. "Very few people know anything about how to hand-sew a garment, but as long as someone does, they can teach someone else."
Pub Date: 9/16/99