The Anne Arundel County Fair is scheduled to open today in Crownsville. It will feature free flags for the first 1,000 people through the gates and a ceremony commemorating the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Representatives from the Herald Harbor Volunteer Fire Department, the Maryland State Police and the armed forces are expected to participate in a 6 p.m. memorial at the fairgrounds.
"We tried to decide what was the best way to go about opening, knowing we had to do it on the 11th," said Sheryl Sultz, a member of the fair's board.
Organizers decided the ceremony - which will include a performance of patriotic songs by the Old Mill Senior High School marching band and a speaker discussing symbols of America - would be appropriate. The $5 admission fee will be waived today for active military, fire and police personnel with identification, Sultz said.
Traditional opening-night events will follow the ceremony, including the fair queen contest and fireworks.
The County Fair began its 50th year with pre-fair events last weekend, earlier than its customary opening date of the second Wednesday in September. More than 500 people turned out for fireworks, said Raymond Gies, fire chief for Herald Harbor.
"From the turnout there, I think the turnout at the fair is going to be pretty good," he said.
Last year, the fair opened the day after the terrorist attacks and attendance suffered for the first several days, he said. Paid attendance last year was about 36,000, down from around 42,000 in 2000, Sultz said.
Sultz expects heavy attendance for the teen dance at 8 p.m. Friday, six hours of bluegrass music Saturday afternoon and country music artist Trace Adkins at 5:30 p.m. Sunday.
"Of course we have our normal pig races, a chainsaw carving demonstration, a petting zoo, pie and watermelon eating contests, the food, the rides," Sultz said.
A new event will have children playing farmer - gathering eggs, digging potatoes and picking apples, said Sultz.
The Anne Arundel County Fair runs today through Sunday. Hours vary. The fairgrounds are at 1450 Generals Highway (Route 178). Information: 410-923-3400.