Record heat reduces crowds

The Baltimore Sun

Record-setting temperatures depressed attendance at this year's Howard County Fair.

The eight-day event, which ended Saturday, drew 10,000 to 20,000 fewer visitors than last year's estimated attendance of 100,000, according to organizers.

As a result of the heat, fair officials plugged in additional fans, refrigerated prize-winning baked goods, loosened uniform requirements for 4-H members and allowed some animals to go home early.

Two people fainted from heat stroke but declined to go to a hospital, said Chief Mickey Day of the West Friendship Volunteer Fire Department.

"The animals are actually better equipped to handle this heat than humans are," said John Fleishell, president of the fair's board.

Of all of the animals at the fair, Fleishell was most concerned about the pigs, which do not sweat. Ken Derrenbacher of Dayton said that for the first time his children were required to douse their five pigs in water before and after they coaxed them through the show ring.

"Wednesday was the day of the [swine] show, and it was just brutal and very nasty," he said of the temperature, which soared above 100 degrees.

Fleishell said that he cut the show ring's size in half for some events, which shortened the parade, and reduced the number of animals in the ring at one time from 20 to 10.

"The more animals you put in there, the more it heats them and stresses them," he said.

Fleishell added 20 fans to the poultry room - a cacophony of cock-a-doodle-dos - and sent the long-haired Angora rabbits home after they were judged. The rabbits' coats are wool.

The fair also provided free water on Seniors Day, and 4-H participants did not have to wear ties and could unbutton their shirt collars at some events, said Sheryl Burdette, a 4-H coordinator.

Attendance picked up later in the week as temperatures dropped about 10 degrees, and the fair hosted a successful 4-H livestock auction Friday night. The grand champion pig sold for $21 a pound.

"When I got there, I didn't see many people, and I thought, 'Uh-oh. We're in trouble,'" Fleishell said. "But within 15 minutes it filled up."

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