For local students, Maryland State Fair is a chance to compete

Abby Warner, of Arbutus, remembers the first time she walked around the Maryland State Fairgrounds about five or six years ago, looking for artwork she had submitted in competition.

She was just 7 or 8 years old and said she was caught up in the excitement of being in the fair, and “not really worrying how much how I actually placed.”

Abby, now 13, is getting ready to start eighth grade at Arbutus Middle School. This year, she entered a few photographs, an acrylic painting, a watercolor painting and a mixed media project. For her paintings, Abby was in the “youth 12-17” entry pool; for photography, she competed against other youths younger than 16.

She said things felt different this time.

“As you grow, as you get older, each age group you’re going to have people with more and more skills in that category,” Abby said. “So it is a bit competitive.”

She said she’s proudest of her first-place ribbon for the acrylic painting.

The painting depicts a girl walking through a forest holding an umbrella after it rained. Puddles on the ground reflect the bright-red umbrella the girl is carrying.

“You always have that hope that you placed really well,” she said. “I was really excited that I placed on that. I was pretty pleased with how I did.”

Abby’s entries into the fair were judged alongside about 17,000 other submissions, according to Edie Bernier, publicity director for the fair. First-prize winners get a cash prize, the size of which depends on the category, Bernier said.

Entrants come from every county and submit everything from quilts to photography to produce to wine and home-brewed beer.

And, of course, there’s the livestock — about 6,500 entries, Bernier said.

Cody Grover, 12, and his family live in Sparks, with three goats in the backyard.

Cody, who’s starting seventh grade at Hereford Middle School, said 2018 was his second year entering livestock. This year and last he has shown goats.

He decided he wanted to show animals because some of his older friends in his local 4-H club were doing it, he said.

“I was around it and it seemed pretty cool; it was just a thing that I wanted to do,” he said.

Before getting into goat rearing, Cody would enter projects in crafting competitions, like woodworking. He said he’s probably been taking part in craft competitions at the fair since he was 5 or 6 years old.

Just last year, he said, he won first place for a teddy bear he crafted out of wood. But crafting competitions have not been his favorite, because he’s “more an an outdoor person.”

This year, he entered Alfalfa, a castrated male goat, in a “meat” category.

If Alfalfa had placed high enough, the goat would have been sold at a livestock auction for its meat.

On some level, Cody said, he didn’t want Alfalfa to win. He didn’t want to sell the goat to slaughter because “he’s my baby.”

Alfalfa now joins two goats at his family’s house in Sparks. They’re all pets now, not destined for sale or show. Cody said he spends about 30 minutes each day sitting with the goats, exercising them and just “hanging around” them.

“If you chase them around, they’ll run with you,” he said. “We have two fainting goats here; if you scare ‘em, they faint. If you come down there and they’re all laying there, and you come and spook them, they’ll jump up real fast. When they see me, they’ll run over to me.”

Cody and Abby both said they want to keep entering competitions at the fair.

“It’s always just sort of fun to compete against each other in a fun way,” she said.

The Maryland State Fair runs until Sept. 3 at the fairgrounds on York Road in Timonium.

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