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Harford Farm Fair opens Monday night with steady crowds, brief storm

Opening night of the 30th annual Harford County Farm Fair featured a steady crowd Monday, to the delight of vendors and fair organizers who have extended the summer celebration from four days to six.

"We had a pretty good attendance for the first night on a Monday," fair co-chair Aimee O'Neill said.

She had performed earlier in the evening with the Hanson & O'Neill Trio. O'Neill noted events Monday morning and afternoon were well attended, too, such as a celebratory luncheon in honor of the fair's 30th consecutive year.

Fair organizers received proclamations from Harford's state legislative delegation, the County Council, County Executive Barry Glassman and Secretary of Agriculture Joseph Bartenfelder, according to O'Neill.

She noted three members of the fair board — Elke Neuberger, Reg Traband, Clif Dowling — have been involved since 1988, the fair's first year at the Harford County Equestrian Center in Bel Air.

Family members of the late Dr. Richard O. Cook, a Bel Air veterinarian and the farm fair's first chairman and chief fundraiser, who died in February, attended the luncheon, according to O'Neill.

"We could recognize his life and his contributions," O'Neill said.

Much of the opening night activity, such as the carnival rides, had to stop for about 30 minutes as a thunderstorm rolled through around 7:45 p.m. Messages were broadcast over the PA system urging people to "get to a permanent shelter," such as an animal barn or pavilion.

People cleared off of the rides and out of the vendor tents, but those who were in an animal pavilion stayed there, checking out creatures such as horses, cows, rabbits and chickens.

Dark clouds gathered, lightning flashed and thunder cracked, but the storm soon passed, leaving just a steady shower.

Jenny Dove, of Havre de Grace, and her 8-year-old daughter, Naomi, got nuzzled and head-bumped by a pair of friendly horses.

"Horses, they're my favorite animal; I ride them all the time," Naomi said.

This year was the second at the fair for Dove and her daughter. They were visitors last year, but Naomi entered flowers, vegetables and chickens she has raised in fair exhibitions this year.

Naomi said she won top prizes for her floral arrangement and green beans.

"Last year we just came — this year we joined in," Dove said.

Mother and daughter plan to visit a number of other attractions at the fair such as dog shows, horse shows, the Kidway and Saturday's 4-H livestock auction.

"The auction is awesome," Dove said.

Friends Leah Talbott, 23, of York, Pa., and Charnika Dyson, 22, of Edgewood, also checked out the horse pen.

They have been coming to the farm fair since they were children — Talbott is a former Aberdeen resident.

"We just come every year," Dyson said. "It's a Harford County tradition."

They enjoy a number of different attractions, such as the animals and the food.

"It's a lot of local stuff," Talbott said. "We get to indulge in a little bit of everything from Harford County."

This year is the first that alcohol can be served at the farm fair. People could sample whiskey from the White Tiger Distillery, of Kent Island, and beer from Bel Air's own Independent Brewing Co.

The number of visitors at White Tiger's booth had been light, but "the people that came are definitely interested," said Vicki Skazis, a sales investor.

Skazis is an Abingdon resident. Her colleagues at the booth also live in Harford County.

"By the end [of the week] we're anticipating bigger crowds," she said.

Representatives of White Tiger and Independent Brewing agreed that alcohol sales help make the fair more adult-friendly.

Phillip Rhudy, owner of the brewing company, noted fair organizers are "doing a lot of cool things to bring this fair into the 21st century," such as more food vendors, food trucks, upgraded rides and music options such as an open mike night, as well as the alcohol sales.

"The amount of traffic we've had come by here, it's been encouraging for a Monday," said Pat Wesdock, one of Rhudy's business partners.

Jeremy and Sarit Marine, of Bel Air, and their 1-year-old son, Aiden, stopped by the Independent Brewing booth. Both adults purchased cups of beer.

"We like Independent Brewing," Jeremy Marine said. "We like going up there, so being able to have that here is a good treat for the adults."

The family moved to Bel Air from Baltimore County this past winter, so this year is their first at the Harford County fair.

"This is great," Marine said. "It's close by, there's a lot of stuff to do, a lot of stuff to see."

The fair continues Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, from 3 to 10 p.m., and from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Visit http://www.farmfair.org for more information.

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