The 31st annual Harford County Farm Fair runs from July 23 to July 28

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The 31st annual Harford County Farm Fair, featuring six days of fun including carnival rides, food, live music, agricultural exhibits, and — starting this year — dancing under the stars, begins Monday, July 23.

This year’s Farm Fair, an annual summer tradition in Harford County since the fair was revitalized in the late 1980s, runs to Saturday, July 28. The fair will be at its regular location, the Harford County Equestrian Center on North Tollgate Road in Bel Air.

Hours are from 3 to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Admission is $6 per person Monday through Thursday and $8 per person Friday and Saturday. Children ages 6 to 12 are $2 per person all six days, and children 5 and younger are free with a paying adult. Members of the military with identification are $5 per person, according to the fair website, http://www.farmfair.org.

“It promises to be a very interesting fair with a lot of fun things for people to see and do,” Aimee O’Neill, co-chair of the board of directors of Harford County Farm Fair Inc., said.

Carnival rides will be provided by Houghton Enterprises Inc., of Cochranville, Pa. People can get a $5 discount on ride armbands if they purchase online through the Houghton website — a line is available on the Farm Fair home page — before 11:59 p.m. on Sunday.

Ride unlimited rides for one day for $20 a person if you purchase through the online presale or $25 if you purchase at the fair. A $50 Unlimited Ride Mega Band, allowing purchasers to ride unlimited rides all week, can be purchased online through Sunday. The weekly pass will also be for sale at the fair Monday, according to O’Neill.

Visitors can park off of North Tollgate Road across from the fairgrounds for $5 per vehicle, or they can park for free at Bel Air High School and Red Pump Elementary School and take a free shuttle that runs every 15 minutes, O’Neill said.

People with disabilities who have a handicapped parking tag can use the lot at the Harford County Parks and Recreation headquarters next to the fairgrounds. Visitors riding bicycles can lock their bikes behind the wood shop on the Parks and Recreation grounds, O’Neill said.

Fair highlights

A new event this year is the Track Party, featuring live music from the Maryland-based country music act Dean Crawford & The Dunn’s River Band, plus dancing on the track area of the fairgrounds, according to O’Neill.

The Track Party runs from 7 p.m. until closing Friday, July 27, O’Neill said.

“It will be a nice evening dancing under the stars,” she said. “You can’t get any better than that.”

Other highlighted events include the annual Miss Harford County Farm Bureau contest Monday evening, the Literary Spelling Bee and antique tractor pull Thursday, a performance by the Cowboy Mounted Shooting Association, the Lucas Oil Truck & Tractor Pull and the annual 4-H Livestock Auction, all on Saturday.

The Harford Chef’s Challenge returns this year, scheduled for Tuesday evening. Chefs from three local restaurants — Pairings Bistro in Bel Air, JD’s Smokehouse in Bel Air and Uncle’s Hawaiian Grindz in Fallston — will prepare dishes using locally sourced ingredients, such as produce from Harman’s Farm Market in Churchville, O’Neill said.

The main ingredients for the dish will be revealed at the event, according to O’Neill.

Guest judges include County Councilman Chad Shrodes; Len Parrish, Harford’s director of community and economic development; county Treasurer Robert Sandlass; Amy McClaskey, O’Neill’s co-chair on the fair board; Kate Dallam, of Broom’s Bloom Dairy in Bel Air; Janet Archer, president of the Harford County Farm Bureau; and Michael Mason, chief of citizens’ affairs for the county.

O’Neill is one of 14 members of the volunteer board, which she leads with McClaskey. They, along with Secretary/Treasurer Alice Archer, make up the board’s executive committee.

Volunteers needed

O’Neill encouraged people to volunteer with the fair — they can either sign up ahead of time by contacting fair organizers at info@farmfair.org or visit the volunteer tent during the fair. More information, including registration forms, is on the fair website.

People who work the ticket booth can enjoy air-conditioning, and those who spend two hours volunteering get a day of free admission, O’Neill said. Those who spend four hours get a voucher for food, according to the fair website.

Adults 18 and older can work in the ticket booth or volunteer tent; youths 16 and older can help with traffic control on the fairgrounds, and children and teens age 10 to 16 can work in the Kidway area, helping with the entertainment and activities for children, according to the fair website.

“We’re just looking for a whole new generation of volunteers,” O’Neill said.

She called the volunteer opportunities at the fair “a good aspect of being part of the community.”

Six days of fun

The fair went from the traditional four days to six days last year as part of the celebration of its 30th anniversary, as well as in response to the families of youths involved in 4-H. Those families sought additional time for the children and teens to show animals or demonstrate skills such as archery, fashion or tractor operation.

“We really needed six days just to get the events in for the showings of the various livestock,” O’Neill said.

The expanded length continues this year. Visitors can check out 4-H exhibitions, carnival rides, the Kidway, live music and the food court each day.

Craft beer makers, such as Independent Brewing Co. of Bel Air and Slate Farm Brewery of Whiteford, winemakers such as Harford Vineyard & Winery of Forest Hill and spirit maker White Tiger Distillery, also of Forest Hill, will be available in the Artisan’s Village vendor area throughout the week.

A full schedule of events is on the fair website.

“People can come and have a Farm Fair meal and ride rides and enjoy the local wineries and breweries,” O’Neill said. “It’s a nice evening out.”

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