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Farm Fair finishes with good attendance despite heat

Harford Farm Fair Week
(MATT BUTTON | AEGIS STAFF, Patuxent Homestead)

After four lengthy days, some with high temperatures, the 24th annual Harford County Farm Fair closed Sunday.

As one of the county's largest events, the farm fair, as usual, was dominated by projects and shows from 4-H members, although there were newcomers to the activities stage.

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The Lone Ranger & Silver Show, based on a 1950s TV series, was a farm fair hit, according to co-chair and organizer Skip Pieper.

The other popular events were the Dock Dogs competitions, he added, which included having dogs jump long distances into water for toys. Aimee O'Neill, co-chair and organizer, too, said the fair featured several new events, including an alpaca show, which people "just loved," and a corn maze provided by Beachmont Christian Camp.

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The fair kicked off the Sunday before with the Harford County Farm Fair 5K, where Jerry Henderson, 45, placed first with a time of 18:27. James Vadas, 17, finished second with a time of 19:42.

The main exhibitions at the farm fair, however, were the 4-H projects, culminating in the annual 4-H Livestock Auction Saturday evening. This year, the amount of 4-H exhibitors increased, according to Harford County Farm Fair Director Cynthia Warner.

Whereas last year there were 320 students, this year 380 participated. Of those 380, several 4-H members participated in a variety of events, which totaled 3,846 exhibits entered into the fair, according to Warner, up from the 3,714 from last year.

The farm fair featured three tents this year, too, Pieper said, which was fairly good given that it wasn't an election year. Election years usually see more tents, he said, but the amount they had this year was good, too.

As for vendors, which ranged from Courtland Hardware to Harford Community College, the fair was packed.

"We were full on vendors," Pieper said. "We could not have taken on another vendor."

This year saw an increase in volunteers as well, Pieper said. Although the farm fair is run by a non-profit organization, the county does support it and, typically, county employees work at the fair.

This time around, though, Pieper said they used "less manhours" of county employees.

"We're doing more with our own volunteers," he said, "and less with county employees."

The naming of the 2011 Miss Harford County Farm Bureau Thursday night and the 4-H Livestock Auction over the weekend were also two well-attended events.

Katie D'Anna, a 17-year-old recent North Harford High School graduate, was named this year's Miss Harford County Farm Bureau, with Lauren Kidd, of Hydes, the first runner-up.

Although she isn't a 4-H member, Katie was president of the North Harford Future Farmers of America, she said Thursday evening, where she also participated in Food For America, a program that allows FFA members to teach young children about agriculture.

The livestock auction, too, was a hit, Pieper said.

"We had a great livestock sale," he said, adding that there was more beef than has been at the farm fair for a long time.

Giant supermarkets of Rock Spring bought all three Grand Champions - the hog, steer and lamb.

Maggie Holloway, 13, presented the Grand Champion Market Hog, "Mr. Beefy."

Both the Grand Champion Market Lamb, "Mac," and the Grand Champion Market Steer, "Mr. Ginger," were 17-year-old Melissa Grimmel's projects.

Tractor pulls drew a large crowd, too, O'Neill said, especially Saturday. Some of the dogs in the Dock Dogs competition also broke records, she said, but they had not learned which ones as of Tuesday afternoon.

The watermelon-eating contest had more than 200 contestants, ages three to adult, she added, which also broke previous records.

This year there was no on-site parking and visitors had to be bussed in. The parking was a problem, Pieper said, but he thought it went very well and the visitors accepted it as an option.

The high heat, too, hindered attendance this year, Pieper said, but overall he was still pleased with the turnout.

"We know that the tremendously hot weather did not help our attendance any," he said and O'Neill confirmed, saying the attendance was "average for the type of heat," especially on Friday.

Northern Harford State Sen. Barry Glassman, too, said the weather kept most of the crowds away, but that the fair organizers "did a nice job."

The fair, for him at least, wasn't about how big or well-attended it is.

"To me, the fair's always been about the 4-H kids," Glassman said.

This year, Pieper said, there was a "huge increase" in the number of families who attended the event, which was in keeping with the farm fair's goal.

"We're really trying to retune ourselves to a real family event," he said, "where the family and the kids can kind of re-touch with ag a little bit."

Even now, with the farm fair having been finished for mere days, Pieper said they are already planning for next year.

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