Howard County's annual fair, a mainstay that has showcased the county's agricultural history for seven decades, started off right.
The weeklong fair opened with its first-ever Public Safety Day, an event with the services, equipment, skills and compassion of first responders on full display.
Coming at a time of increased national attention and tension over police relations in some communities, coupled with senseless attacks on officers, the opportunity for everyday folk to get to know the officers on the beat, the paramedics and firefighters who put their lives on the line every day, can't be understated. Face time matters. As one of the Safety Day's coordinators said, the community should take comfort "knowing that we've got good protection out there." It was an appropriate addition to the fair's lineup.
Also this year, more than a few "ECStrong" T-shirts were in evidence on the West Friendship fairgrounds, showing support for the recovery efforts in nearby Ellicott City, hit by ravaging floodwaters just a week before the fair.
At its core, the exposition is all about tradition, education, discovery and having a good time, a moment to escape the more serious events of the day, enjoying a funnel cake or hand-dipped ice cream cone while strolling the grounds.
Where else will you find a competition for the best apple dessert, crocheted baby sweater, potted medicinal herbs or canned chow-chow relish? Not to mention classic midway rides and games, antique car parades, traditional music, demolition derbies and pig races.
Carefully preened livestock, smells and all – from diary cows to pigs, sheep and goats – are always a draw, and helpful 4-H handlers are more than willing to give city slickers a primer on farm life.
The fair provides opportunity to unwind, to step back to an era without instant messaging and constant connectivity and appreciate the county's farming past and the importance of growing strong, healthy communities in the future. It's virtual reality from yesteryear.