In Reisterstown, nothing signals the beginning of fall like the annual corn roast festival. This year, the festival, re-scheduled for Oct. 10 due to inclement weather, will celebrate its 10th anniversary.
The event is held each year at Farmer Tom's, a farm in Reisterstown. This year it will feature a wide variety of activities for participants of all ages, from a corn eating contest to a beer garden.
"We're offering corn eating contests, hay rides, pony rides, a children's activity area; there'll be live music the entire day," said Kathleen Gower, a member of the corn roast planning committee. "We're also having a car and truck show, and the participants from that can come from wherever and that's actually going to be judged."
Live music will be playing, area businesses and associations will have booths set up, an animal petting area will be available, and Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops will be selling kettle corn and taking cookie orders, respectively. And Franklin High School's drama club will be selling apple slices with caramel.
Chris Larkins, a volunteer on the corn roast festival committee and the president of the Reisterstown Community Cemetery, will be emceeing the event.
Farmer Tom's farm will hold mud runs on the weekends throughout October as well. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/rfarmfresh.
The festival isn't very lucrative, Larkins said, but a portion of whatever profit that's made is given to the cemetery.
"They're really the organization that has started this and is really the backbone behind it — their group, they're the ones that sponsor this entire festival," Gower said.
Larkins has been helping to plan the event since the beginning, when it was a political fundraiser for Gov. Bob Ehrlich. The political aspect stuck for five years, but once Ehrlich was no longer involved in politics, the event switched to a more community-oriented event.
"We did have a lot of community involvement … so we didn't want to upset anybody [by no longer holding the corn roast] so we removed the political aspects, and there are some politicians that come [now] but everybody's invited," Larkins said.
Over the years, the event has become a staple in the Reisterstown-Owings Mills-Glyndon community, drawing thousands of attendees each year.
"We've had a high of 4,000 and a low of 1,500 [participants]. The high was at the height of Bob Ehrlich's political campaign and the low was the first year we switched it from political to community, but it was also a bad weather day, too," Larkins said.
Last year, the festival had about 1,700 attendees. Larkins said he's hoping to have a similar turnout this year, should the weather cooperate.
"We're expecting good turnout, weather permitting. It really, really has a lot to do with the weather because we have hayrides, pony rides; we have music, a corn eating contest, face painting. Everything we do is outside. Everything," he said.
Gower, representing her business Gower Resources, which promotes agricultural education, will be one of the vendors at the event. She said in addition to being a fun family event, the festival also provides agricultural awareness to attendees.
"I just think it's amazing how many people step on the farm for the first time, even in Baltimore County, and they've never been on a working farm before … and one of the things the festival will highlight is the connection between our farms in Maryland and our citizens — the people living here," she said. "Ideally [the attendees are] going to see the actual farm, they'll see the animals, they'll see the produce that's being offered, even the activities, the hay rides, and realize there should be a greater connection back to our agricultural roots and realize the importance of local farms on our economy."
Larkins said just being surrounded by farmland and being on an actual, operational farm will help people, especially children, gain a greater understanding of the process necessary to prepare the food they eat.
"I think [the festival is] great because a lot of kids have no idea where food comes from, what a corn stalk is … there's kids that actually believe that their meat does not come from an animal," he said.
Reynolds said the event serves as a way to educate attendees while also entertaining them.
"We try to give a little different experience when they come on the farm," he said. "While they're enjoying themselves, we are trying to educate them. A lot of times you can teach children more by not telling them you're teaching them and just having them enjoy something.
"There's a lot of misinformation out there about a lot of just general topics in agriculture — of course the No. 1 is that all farmers are polluting the bay, which is not true at all," Reynolds said. "A lot of kids don't know brown milk doesn't come out of a brown cow. It's crazy … there's so many kids who've never been around a bonfire ... and it's not even just kids. There's adults who come and say it's the first time they've ever been on a farm."
Farmer Tom's Market will be open, offering produce and other items, including honey and seafood, for sale, as well as taking orders for turkeys.
Larkins said the event is all about the community. It offers families the chance to come by and enjoy a festival atmosphere, without having to pay festival prices.
"You can walk around and pretty much have a day there with your children and not spend a dime. You might not be able to do everything but you'll still have a good time," he said.
The festival might not make a lot of money but, Larkins said, that's not what's important.
"It's not about money; it's about community, and family and kids and awareness about what we have," he said. "It's a great way to meet their community, meet their community leaders, meet their regular neighbors, some of the businesses, see what Reisterstown has to offer. Most people come out to the farm and say 'wow, we didn't know this was here' ... it's nice to know what your town offers and we offer a lot … Reisterstown's really, really coming alive as far as community awareness," he said.