Grove Miller has attended the Maryland State Fair for the past 72 years.
The Rising Sun farmer, who up until last year served as the chairman of the board for the state fair over a 40-year stint, has been involved with the annual event his entire adult life.
“Very little has changed,” the 92-year-old said just before he was served his lunch — a hulking cheeseburger and potato chips from The Grandstand Grille, on the second floor of the grandstand. “It [the fair] has always been good. The food has always been good.”
Miller gathers each year with his family and friends to enjoy the festivities, which end Monday.
“I always get the peach sundae,” said Arlene, his wife of 69 years. “Some years I would have one or two a day. It just melts in your mouth.”
Traditions are what make the fair a success, according to its CEO, Andy Cashman.
"I grew up here," said Cashman, who said he has attended every fair in his life except for one. "We still have the same traditions for a lot of things. This is Maryland's biggest family event. There are so many things to see and do."
Cashman pointed to the slew of activities at the fair, running this year from Aug. 23 to Sept. 3, including two stakes horse races; 43 rides; 45 different food stands that served every fried, steamed and powdered food imaginable; the 4-H demonstrations; livestock sales of 80 animals that generated $149,000; and all the street acts and vendors.
Last year, a little more than 550,000 people attended the fair, the third-best attendance in its history. Cashman projected an increase over that.
"This fair has been really good," he said. "As long as the weather works for us, we'll exceed that number."
Cashman attributed this year’s uptick in attendance to the good weather and to the starting date of school being pushed back after Labor Day.
"It's much better," he said about the later starting date for schools. "The 4-H kids don't have to get back to school. They can participate."
This is the second summer since Gov. Larry Hogan issued an executive order requiring Maryland's public schools to start after Labor Day.
The longer summer break was expected to generate an additional $74.3 million in economic activity statewide and add $7.7 million in revenue to both state and local governments, according to the state's Bureau of Revenue Estimates.
It appeared that the fair also experienced the economic boost. Attendees who rode rides at the fair increased 27 percent from last year's numbers, Cashman said.
We come every year,” said Stacey Hall of Elkridge, who has brought her children to the fair for the past six years.
Her four children, ages 5 to 11, said they love attending.
“I love the rides and games. It’s just a family tradition,” said Cheyne, her 11-year-old son.
“I love the cotton candy and snacks,” Cheyenne chimed in.
“And the funnel cakes,” their mother added with a laugh.
“It’s great that the start date of school got pushed back,” said Hall, adding that her kids start school on Tuesday. “We can get in this last bit of summer before then.”