From cows to quilts to cotton candy, the Howard County Fair returns this weekend with its beloved traditions intact.
"A lot of the same stuff is coming back again this year," said Fair President H. Mitchell Day. "As long as it's working, we continue to do it."
That means eight days of animal shows, 4-H activities, exhibits, family entertainment, midway rides, contests and carnival food at the Howard County Fairgrounds in West Friendship from Saturday through Aug. 9.
The 63rd fair kicks off with a preview day, during which home arts entries are judged and awarded ribbons. The department has more than 100 categories encompassing many aspects of baking, food preservation, needle arts, visual arts, photography, crafts and woodworking.
Contests for honey and beeswax and wool fleece will also be judged Saturday, as will farm crops and fruits and vegetables, which are expected to have plenty of entries this year, thanks to favorable weather.
Sunday is the official opening day, featuring the pie-eating and pretty-animal contests, the opening parade and the 26th cow milking contest. Competitions will be held to crown a new Miss Howard County Farm Bureau, Little Miss Farm Bureau and Howard County Future Farmer.
Throughout the week, animal shows are a highlight of the fair. Youths in the 4-H program and individuals in open classes display dairy and beef cattle, pigs, lambs, goats, rabbits and poultry. The 4-H participants will auction the animals they have raised at the livestock sale Friday evening.
Horse shows continue to be a popular part of the fair as the county and surrounding areas have a growing number of horse owners, Day said.
Ten shows for horses, mules, ponies and miniature horses are scheduled. There will also be a mule-pulling contest Tuesday, a "play day" for owners of any kind of equine to take part in riding games Wednesday and a horse-pulling contest Aug. 9. Two equine drill teams will show off their precision moves to music Tuesday and Thursday evenings.
Fans of farm machinery from earlier generations can enjoy antique thresher demonstrations Saturday and Sunday, a slow tractor race Tuesday and an antique tractor pull Aug. 9. Antique automobiles will be on display Sunday.
More modern equipment will be featured at one of the few additions to the fair schedule: a skid loader competition Monday evening.
The Iron Chef contest Thursday, organized by the Farm/City Celebration committee, will pit representatives of county fire departments against each other in an outdoor cooking contest using local produce.
Some longtime favorites and a few new acts will perform on the stage this year.
Carol Chaney, the fair's entertainment coordinator, said country, rock 'n' roll and oldies seem to be the most popular types of music.
Acts such as the Back Pages Band, Jay Henley and Stone Broke, Big Cam & the Lifters, and Richie Fields and Big Time Country have proven their ability to draw crowds, and will return this year.
Common Clay, a contemporary Christian group, has been a hit with fairgoers in past years as well, and performances by the Browningsville Cornet Band are a tradition that goes back decades.
Chaney said she also tries to change a couple of acts in the lineup each year for variety. "If possible, I like to promote local talent," she said.
New faces this year include 21 the Difference, a country, pop and rock band from Mount Airy, and Damascus Road. , an alternative rock group.
Bingo, pig races, chain saw carving demonstrations, clowns and magic shows are all part of the daily entertainment. A square dance will be held Saturday, an amateur variety talent show Thursday and the annual baby contest and miniature parade Aug. 9.
A petting barn with baby farm animals - one of the most popular attractions - lso will return with educational displays focusing on a different animal each day.
That activity, like the animal shows, crop displays and other traditional features, keeps the fair in touch with its roots.
"The main purpose of our organization is to promote agriculture," Day said. "We want to give the youth of today a chance to experience agriculture as it was years ago."
What: The Howard County Fair
When: 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily, Saturday through Aug. 9.
Where: Howard County Fairgrounds, 2210 Fairgrounds Road, take exit 80 off Interstate 70.
Admission: $5 for patrons 10 and older, $2 for senior citizens 62 and older. Free entry for those with military ID Saturday and for senior citizens Tuesday.
Parking: Free on site.
Schedule and other information: