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Family, Fun, Fast Pigs at Farm Fair 2011

Stop by Harford County's 24th annual Farm Fair for some good old-fashioned family fun this weekend.

Parents and children gather around the track, grinning as the announcer kicks off the with a call to the audience for helpers.

“You need to jump up real high and wave your arms,” he says, surveying the crowd.

The kids go wild, trying to be the one to get his attention. He picks five of them from the crowd and then says, “OK, now I need a volunteer who’s ugly.”

The kids are so eager to help that they start waving their arms before they realize what he just said. This causes laughter and snickers to ripple through the crowd.

After assigning the children to their jobs (one waves the flag, four act as cheerleaders, and one unfortunate boy is passed a face mask and a pooper-scooper), he introduces the audience to the first pigs to race. Every race has a certain theme and the first one is “Hollywood Stars.”

Each pig is assigned a color and a name. My portion of the crowd is supposed to cheer for the Pink Pig or Brad “Barbecue” Pitt. My brother and I cheer heartily as he comes barreling down the track.

The pig races have always been one of my favorite attractions at the (I secretly like to imagine myself as a track rat, with a cigar clenched between my teeth and waving money in the air willing my choice to win), but there are plenty of things to do here, especially as a family.

True to its mission statement, the fair offers a wide array of opportunities to experience and explore Harford County's agricultural heritage. When we first entered the fair, we watched the 4-H Swine Show. Later in the day we stopped by the 4-H Dairy Goat and Pygmy Goat Show.

After the pig races, we wander past several moon bounces, the Candy ‘n’ Cupcake Show, and activities like beanbag toss and giant chess. Then we venture into the Wildlife Adventures tent, which houses reptiles, amphibians and insects. A bearded lizard is perched atop the counter inside, eyeing up all the visitors.

“I call him Benji,” the girl behind the counter says. “Like short for Benjamin.”

Across the lane, we meander through the stalls, looking at goats, cows and chickens. One particular chicken has legs so puffy that we refer to him as "pants." And I am again amazed at how many breeds there are. They strut and feed in different shapes, sizes and colorings.

Some alpacas also offer an interesting sight. They stand quietly with long necks, a mop of hair and what appears to be buck teeth.

"They're really nice," their owner states. "I've had alpacas for three years." Alpacas can be used as pack animals, but she uses them for their fleece. 

When asked about how they compare to llamas, she informs us that "llamas are a little more aggressive."  

After we're done looking at the farm animals, we step back outside. At a short distance away, an older gentleman in a leopard cowboy hat sits in a little blue and purple car. "Al The Artist" a sign reads on the back.

He has a "Wanted" poster propped on his lap on which he carefully sketches a caricature of the young girl sitting on a stool beside him. We wait around a bit, trying to get our own caricature, but the line is too long. We walk away, making a mental note to track him down again.

Our next stop is the horse-drawn carriage ride. After a brief period during which the driver hoses off the horses, we're off with a lurch. The carriage loops around the equestrian center, little children staring up at the large horses. Two girls across from me, decorated with swirling face paint, wave down at those we pass. 

After we've completed a circuit, we step down and pet the horses named Oscar and Zally. Then we hightail it to the food area, purchasing hotdogs, fries and ice cold lemonades.

With full stomachs, we decide to poke around the different vendor's stalls. Jewelry, personalized shirts, toys—you name it, they have it. I had my eye on a hat resembling a sock-monkey, but I didn't bring enough money for it.

When we finally track down Al The Artist again, we find him swamped by another large crowd (he does the caricatures for free, after all).

"Can we help you?" a woman asks, who I assume is his wife. The crowd has dwindled down to only a few of us now.

"Yeah, we're trying to get our caricature done," I reply.

She shakes her head. "He's about to go on his break; he'll be back here at 5, though."

Stymied once again, we treat ourselves to some soft-served ice cream and then walk over to watch the Dock Dogs practice session. One by one, the owners bring their dogs out on a long dock and toss toys into a large pool at the end. With boundless energy, the dogs sprint down the dock and leap into the air. Well, at least most of them do.

At 5 p.m., we finally corner Al and sit in the stool for our own caricatures. We discuss college, politics and his journey to becoming a "Al The Artist."

"I've been doing this for 17 years," he says. "I wasn't here last year, but I guess they wanted me back." Then he hands to me a smiling, exaggerated copy of myself, surrounded by the words: Wanted....For Having Too Much Fun At The Farm Fair.

For more information on prices, activities and location, be sure to check them out online at their website. The last day is Sunday.

Catherine Mary Gallas July 30, 2011 at 11:17 PM
Dock Dogs was awesome!
John Morin July 31, 2011 at 03:22 PM
They were great! It was amazing how far some of them went. My dog wont even go near water. Thanks for reading, Catherine!
Kimberly Schlee Stephens August 01, 2011 at 03:11 AM
Parking was greatly different & quite confusing. Either change set up or post more signs to ensure patrons are utmost positive on the correct path to parking destinations.
Ellen August 01, 2011 at 12:18 PM
Eight dollars to get into a fair that has really not that much except for vendors selling thier items. I remember a farm fair that was lots of fun for kids and adults. what happened and who is planning the fair. The parking is a nightmare and very confusing and even some of the 4h kids who are competing have to park so far away it makes it so hard for them. The dog club kids have to park in the red lot which is below the soccer fields. The dog show is on Sunday and there is not much going on at all, so I dont understand why they cant have a lot on the grounds, They have dogs, crates, clothes, supplies to cart all the way accross the fair grounds and the fields. Its not fair to them or thier parents, ALso why was the agility for the dogs moved to a ring that was in the beating sun on Friday night, past years they were in the ring that was partially shaded. This year the partially shaded one was not being used on Friday night but they were assigned the ring with no shade, the temps were close to 100 degrees on Friday, this is not healthy for the dogs or the kids. For years the dog club has been treated like second class citizens by the farm fair and its time for the club to get the respect and acknowledge the hard work these kids do
John Morin August 01, 2011 at 03:03 PM
Kimberly & Ellen, Those are all very valid points. I was able to walk the trail from where I live to get to the Farm Fair, so I guess I did not realize the full extent of the parking problems. But I did have family members who went on Sunday and they expressed the same frustrations. As for things to do, there certainly are many vendors, but I feel like, for children especially, they could have fun for quite a few hours with all the games, bouncy places, animals and shows. It may be less so for adults. Regarding the dogs (and even attractions), perhaps you should send a message directly to those who run it via their website. I certainly do not like to hear that animals or people are being treated unfairly, and I'm sure if they were to read from a concerned citizen it may persuade them to make changes. Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful day!
Dawn August 04, 2011 at 04:55 PM
The Harford County fair has the same thing year after year. Wish they would add something new! Way too many vendors!

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