At first sight, you might think it's a giant moon bounce, a quarantine area or an eco-friendly livestock barn. Actually, the 100-foot-long, 80- foot-wide, inflatable oval arena is the site of Sudden Impact Paintball - the newest addition to the 126th annual Maryland State Fair.
Even after 45 years of running the fair, Howard "Max" Mosner (president and general manager of the Timonium fairgrounds) isn't afraid of change. In fact, he embraces it.
"We're always looking to bring new attractions to the fair," Mosner says. "It keeps things interesting."
This year, regular fairgoers will notice a few differences, including the addition of a game that is geared toward the more adventurous crowd.
In Sudden Impact Paintball - an event that will cost fairgoers about $5 extra - contestants are separated into two teams that are pitted against each other in a game of wits, strategy and marksmanship.
Each contestant is given a standard paintball gun and tries to eliminate or shoot as many players from the other team without being hit by any paintballs.
Meanwhile, spectators can see into the giant inflatable arena.
Andrew Cashman, assistant general manager of the state fairgrounds, first saw the game at the Arkansas State Fair last year.
"When we witnessed it, there were huge lines of fairgoers waiting to participate," Cashman says. "We thought that it would be great to bring paintball to our own fair in Maryland."
Cashman, along with other Maryland State Fair officials, frequently visits other state fairs throughout the country to get ideas for new attractions and entertainment. Both Cashman and Mosner have high hopes for the new attraction. But Cashman said it won't necessarily return as a regular feature.
"It depends on the success of the game and on the opinion of the fairgoers," Cashman says. "That will determine whether or not we bring it back next year."
Also this year, for the first time in seven years, some concerts will cost extra. If fairgoers want to see John Michael Montgomery, INXS or Dark Star Orchestra, tickets can be purchased at the fairgrounds on the day of the concert in addition to the $6 fair admission.
However, fairgoers can purchase concert tickets in advance at ticketstobuy.com, which includes admission to the fair at no extra cost.
Mosner said he expects about 6,000 attendees for INXS and about 3,000 each for John Michael Montgomery and Dark Star Orchestra.
In addition to paintball and concerts, fairgoers can expect rides for all ages, locally harvested food, multiple forms of agricultural education, live radio broadcasts, exhibitions, live music, tours and other activities. Tonight, fairgoers can attend "Ridemania," a preview night where all the rides, games and food stands are accessible before the fair's grand opening tomorrow morning.
Mosner has brought back many of the crowd favorites this year. According to Mosner, the J Bar W Ranch Battle of the Beasts Rodeo, the Swifty Swine Racing and Swimming Pig Show, and the Birthing Center always attract large crowds of fairgoers.
Although Mosner and Cashman have made considerable efforts to bring new entertainment to the fair, educating others about agriculture is still their main concern.
"We want to get people here with entertainment and give them education," Mosner says. "People are hungry for knowledge, and we still have a responsibility, not only to educate fairgoers, but to emphasize the importance of agriculture in Maryland."
The Maryland State Fair will run tomorrow through Sept. 3 with a ride preview tonight from 5 to 11. Hours are 10 a.m.-10 p.m. daily, with ride hours varying. The fair is at the Maryland State Fairgrounds, 2200 York Road in Timonium. For more information, call 410-252-0200 or go to marylandstatefair.com.
MARYLAND STATE FAIR SCHEDULE
Ridemania Preview Night -- From 5 to 11, get a preview of the fair and enjoy rides. The rides will please thrill-seekers and kids alike. Only the rides, games and food stands will be open. Ridemania costs $15 and includes unlimited rides.
General Information -- The fair opens at 10 a.m. and runs through Sept. 3. Hours are 10 a.m.-10 p.m. daily. Admission is $6 for adults, $3 for children ages 6-11 and free for children younger than 6. Rides and concerts are individually priced.
Miss Maryland Agriculture Contest -- In its 61st year, the contest features 23 women (ages 16-19) vying for the title Miss Maryland Agriculture and awards valued up to $9,000. The two-day competition will test the women's farm/agricultural experience, speaking ability, Farm Bureau knowledge, personality, friendliness and personal presentation. Four scholarships ranging from $1,000 to $2,000 will be awarded to four runners-up. The contest starts at 7:30 p.m. tomorrow and runs through Saturday in the Cow Palace Show Ring.
J Bar W Ranch "Battle of the Beasts" -- See 25 professional International Bull Riders attempt to survive some tenacious bulls in the rodeo. Watch as the riders try to stay on the bulls for eight seconds with one arm in the air. Women around the state will also compete in barrel racing, a timed run in a cloverleaf pattern around three barrels. The event will begin at 7 p.m. in the Horse Show Ring.
4-H Fashion Review -- More than 75 young men and women will bring fashion and flair to the Cow Palace Show Ring at 7 p.m. when they showcase the outfits they have created, constructed or purchased. The Maryland Alpaca Breeders Association will take a stroll down the runway to showcase Alpaca fiber garments.
Ed Norris -- The WHFS talk-show host will broadcast live 11 a.m.-3 p.m. in front of the 4H-FFA Home Arts Building. The broadcast is open to the public and included in the fair's admission price.
Sally Jessy Raphael -- The radio talk-show host will broadcast her show live 10 a.m.-noon at the 4H-FFA Arts Building. The broadcast is open to the public and included in the fair's admission price.
4-H Animal Costume Contest -- 4-H members will dress up their sheep, goats, horses, dogs, rabbits, calves, steer and themselves to educate and inform the public about raising animals. The costumed participants will present a narration in story or poem form as they show their costumed animal at 7:30 p.m. in the Horse Show Arena. Past entries included "Cow Ripken" and "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Rabbit."
4-H/FFA Livestock Sale -- In this culmination of a year's worth of hard work, the 4-H and Future Farmers of America youths will auction off their prized steer, lamb, goats and market hogs, with proceeds from the sales going toward education or new livestock projects. The sale starts at 7:30 p.m. in the Cow Palace Show Ring.
Antique Vehicle Display -- The display will feature approximately 75 antique vehicles from the 1920s up to 1982, including Ford Model A's, Corvair convertibles, Corvettes, Triumphs and GTOs. The show runs 6 p.m.-10 p.m. under the Racetrack Grandstand off the Timonium Road entrance.
Cow-Milking Clinic -- The Maryland Guernsey Youth Association will provide educational information on the dairy industry and demonstrate the milking process 11 a.m.-3 p.m. tomorrow through Sunday and Sept. 1 through Sept. 3 in the Cow Palace.
Maryland Foods Pavilion -- Indulge in some of the freshest, locally harvested food that Maryland has to offer. Everything from crab cakes and corn on the cob to peach yogurt sundaes will be available daily along with numerous cooking demonstrations in the pavilion's display area.
"Pedal Power" Kids Tractor-Pull and Monster Truck Rides -- Witness a tractor-pull or strap in for a bumpy monster truck ride noon-8 p.m. daily next to the Swine Barn.
Sudden Impact Paintball -- Compete in a game of paintball 10 a.m.-10 p.m. daily.
Swifty Swine Racing and Swimming Pig Show -- Go hog wild when Al Boar, Lindsay Loham and other aptly named swine take part in visually entertaining and action-packed pig races. Each show consists of three heat races and a performance by Swifty the Swimming Pig. Show will run five times daily - at 12:30 p.m., 2:30 p.m. 4:30 p.m., 6:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. - on entertainment row.
The University of Maryland Agricultural Fair Tours and Birthing Center -- Agriculture professors and students will give fairground tours and educate fairgoers on animals and exhibits 10 a.m.-8 p.m. daily. The Birthing Center, where fairgoers can see the birth of various livestock, will open daily at 10 a.m. in the Cow Palace.
Thoroughbred Horse Racing -- Catch horse races live at the racetrack or by simulcast daily at 1 p.m. Admission to the track is included in admission price.
John Michael Montgomery -- The country music singer-songwriter will perform at 7 p.m. Aug. 31 on the Racetrack Infield Stage. The infield will open at 6 p.m. Advance tickets are $15 and include free admission to the fair. They can be purchased at ticketstobuy .com. Tickets bought at the gate are $15 plus fair admission.
INXS -- The rockers, who chose a new singer on Rock Star: INXS two years ago, take the stage on Sept. 1 at 7 p.m. on the Racetrack Infield Stage. The infield will open at 6 p.m. Advance tickets are $20 and include fair admission. They can be purchased at ticketstobuy.com. Tickets bought at the gate are $20 plus fair admission.
Dark Star Orchestra -- This Grateful Dead tribute band will perform at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 2 at the Racetrack Infield Stage. Tea Leaf Green will open. The infield opens at 6 p.m. Advance tickets are $15 and include fair admission. They can be purchased at ticketstobuy .com. Tickets bought at the gate are $15 plus fair admission.