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Maryland State Fair in September 2013

The Maryland State Fair is the annual state fair for the state of Maryland. It is held at the Maryland State Fairgrounds located near the intersection of York and Timonium roads in Timonium. As of 2006, the fair is an 11-day event customarily beginning in late August and ending around Labor Day.

HistoryEdit

The first fair was held in 1878 and was known as the Lutherville Fair. The following year, 1879, the fair was moved to its current location in Timonium and was held from September 9 through September 12. In 1906, the Lutherville Fair merged with the Pimlico Fair and became known as the Maryland State Fair. The fair was suspended from 1943 through 1945 during World War II. In 1999, the fair grew to its current length of 11 days.[1]

The New York Times reported that on October 14, 1870, President Rutherford B. Hayes would go to Frederick to attend the "Maryland State Fair."[2] In 1878, after several unsuccessful attempts to establish an ongoing fair at other locations around Baltimore, a group of Maryland businessmen operated a successful fair on a 4-acre (16,000 m2) site in Lutherville, Maryland. Despite its success, the Lutherville Fair was short-lived because an extension of the Northern Central Railroad (the former Baltimore and Susquehanna Railroad) was constructed through the middle of the fairgrounds.

Their success in Lutherville, however, gave the operators resolve to establish an annual fair, and in December 1878, they incorporated as the Agricultural Society of Baltimore County. The corporation leased a 37-acre (150,000 m2) plot of land on the old Baltimore and York Turnpike on what was then known as "the Timonium Estate." The first Fair at its new home was held September 9–12, 1879. The Northern Central Railroad, cause of the closing of the Lutherville Fair, was now the primary source of transportation for fairgoers from Baltimore City to the south to the Timonium Fairgrounds during the rest of the century. Other fairgoers walked or rode horses, wagons, carriages, and carts to the fairgrounds using the Turnpike and its southern end of Greenmount Avenue. Later visitors used the old #8 electric street car line of the old United Railway and Electric Company, later after 1935, as the Baltimore Transit Company. After the last street car rode its course down York Road and Greenmount Avenue to Catonsville in 1963, diesel buses brought visitors to the Fair in addition to the thousands of cars parked on acres of lots around the grounds for that last week of summer.

Late in the century, The Agricultural Society of Baltimore County faced stiff competition from the nearby Pimlico Fair, also referred to as "the State Fair". Ultimately, the two groups held joint fairs in 1894 and 1897, and in 1906, merged to form one corporation - "the Maryland State Fair and Agricultural Society of Baltimore County, Maryland". Their annual Fair then became known as "The Maryland State Fair".

The early years at the Fair saw tents and wooden structures in use to exhibit home arts, farm and garden products, and livestock shows. Plowing and working oxen competitions were some of the popular but few attractions. Races were held at the track, and results were forwarded to interested horsemen at Baltimore and Alexandria, Virginia, by way of carrier pigeon. Food concessions consisted of sandwiches made by the farmers’ wives, and amusements involved sideshows, sack races, and greased pole climbing.

The Maryland State Fair grew and prospered, adding many attractions and exhibits, including an airmail delivery at the 1918 Fair. The annual event continued until 1943 when the Fair was interrupted because of the war effort in World War II. The fairgrounds were leased to the U.S. Army for a storage depot and a vehicle repair center. After a three-year suspension, the Fair reopened its gates in 1946.

In its long and colorful history, the Maryland State Fair has grown from 37 acres (150,000 m2) to over 100 acres (0.40 km2). Because of a commitment to continually improve and expand the event, Fair organizers found that they could no longer squeeze in more entertainment and attractions in what had become the traditional 10-day run. Thus, in 1999, the Fair added another day, making the Fair now an 11-day event.

Timonium Race TrackEdit

Timonium Race Track
 
LocationMaryland State Fair,
at York Road & Timonium Road,
Timonium, Maryland  ,
United States
Owned byMaryland State Fair & Agricultural Society, Inc.
Date openedSeptember 9, 1879
Course typeFlat
Notable races"Alma North Stakes"
"Taking Risks Stakes"

In the 1950s, growth in population and development in increasingly suburban Baltimore County flourished, and certain business interests wanted to purchase the fairgrounds site for industrial development. The majority stockholder of the Corporation for the M.S.F. & A.S. of B.C., which was now the Maryland Jockey Club (which also owned and operated the famous Pimlico Race Course in northwest Baltimore, and home to the Preakness Stakes - one of thoroughbred horse racing's "Triple Crown"), had agreed to sell. In the ensuing controversy, however, a group of agriculturists, business leaders, horsemen, and bankers formed the "Save the Maryland State Fair Committee." The Committee raised over $600,000 to purchase the fairgrounds, ensuring that The Maryland State Fair at Timonium would continue to be Maryland's premiere event at the end of each summer.

Another crisis was averted in the 1970s. The organized Maryland racing industry took steps to have the Fair's Thoroughbred racing competition dates transferred to other Maryland tracks in order to re-trench a declining audience, purses and media attention. Fair Directors recognized that such a move would threaten the survival of the Fair. The "Committee of Friends of the Maryland State Fair" was established to strengthen the cooperation between Maryland agriculture and horse breeding interests - a relationship that had been a tradition in the State since the mid-18th century. The Committee was successful in convincing the public and the state legislature in the Maryland General Assembly of the value in keeping Thoroughbred racing a part of the Fair. The Committee also prepared expansion plans for the Fair, which resulted in a $5 million grant from the State of Maryland for building, modernization, and year-round use of the fairgrounds.

One of the most famous horses to race at Timonium was the Maryland-bred colt Bee Bee Bee who competed and won here in the fall of 1971, then in May 1972 at Pimlico Race Course, won the second leg of the U.S. Triple Crown series, the Preakness Stakes.

Currently the racetrack hosts events during the fair, including the "Alma North Stakes" for fillies and mares and the Taking Risks Stakes. [1]

Miss Maryland Agriculture ProgramEdit

The Miss Maryland Agriculture Program (MMAP) has been a feature of the Maryland State Fair since the 1930's. The name of the contest has changed several times throughout the decades. When it began, the winner received the title Miss Timonium Fair, but winners have also been given the title of Farm Queen, and now the winner receives the title of Miss Maryland Agriculture. Eligible participants include ladies between the ages of 16 and 19 who are either Maryland Farm Bureau members or their parents are members in good standing of one of our 23 county Farm Bureaus. When selected by county Farm Bureaus, all contestants must participate in the three-day Miss Maryland Agriculture Orientation in order to gain knowledge and expertise to assist in competition for the title of Miss Maryland Agriculture.

During the State Fair, contestants participate in a two-day contest consisting of professional interviews, round table discussions and our on-stage contest. They are judged by out-of-state judges on their agricultural and Farm Bureau knowledge, personal presentation and speaking ability. Contestants are provided with a variety of opportunities in agriculture education, career preparation and public relations to enhance their agricultural, professional and personal lives.

The ladies are also given scholarships from the Miss Maryland Agriculture Contest to assist them as they continue to develop into leaders of our industry. Contestants give back to our community by visiting the Ronald McDonald House in Baltimore, working with the Maryland Food Bank and other organizations in the state throughout the year.[3]

According to Phyllis McKenzie, the 2012 Miss Maryland Agriculture winner, the program is a, "knowledge contest run through the farm bureau program. [The judges] will be looking for a lot of knowledge in all the diversities of agriculture and the Maryland Farm Bureau throughout their policies and many programs that they offer for farmers and other agriculturalists." [4]

One of the core responsibilities of Miss Maryland Agriculture is representing the farm bureau at public events such as county fairs, 4-H functions, and other Maryland Farm Bureau events. This can sometimes require MMAP winners to consider how being Miss Maryland Agriculture might conflict with academic or extracurricular commitments. For example, Jamie Bullock, Farm Queen for the year 2000, grew up in Howard County, Maryland but had already committed to attending college in North Carolina.[5] Despite the possible scheduling issues, Bullock was chosen because, as Edie Bernier, a spokeswoman for the Maryland State Fair put it, she, "wowed everyone with her poise and grace." [6] . Over the course of the year Bullock held the title, she took her role very seriously and made every possible effort to return to Maryland to carry out the duties of the role.

While it is not a formal sorority, the women who have won the contest are a close knit group, and they come together to organize a variety of fund-raising activities during the year. Funds raised go towards supporting scholarships, 4-H events, and prize money for fair competitions.

Timonium Fairgrounds light rail serviceEdit

 
Timonium Fairgrounds station

In the early 1990s, construction was completed on the Baltimore Light Rail line, serving Cromwell Station near Glen Burnie in Anne Arundel County to the south, downtown Baltimore, and Hunt Valley to the north. The light rail line's Timonium Fairgrounds station is adjacent to the fair's west entrance. It resulted in increasing crowds of visitors arriving by rail in the late 20th and early 21st Centuries just like a century earlier with the old street cars (of the old United Railways and Electric Company, later the Baltimore Transit Company) and the commuter trains of the old Northern Central Railway.

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Maryland State Fair Archived 2006-09-30 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ "Washington: Visit of Officials to the Maryland Fair." New York Times. October 13, 1870. 5.
  3. ^ "Miss Maryland Agriculture – Maryland Farm Bureau". www.mdfarmbureau.com. Retrieved 2018-09-27.
  4. ^ Group, Baltimore Sun Media. "Miss Maryland Agriculture Contest [Video]". baltimoresun.com. Retrieved 2018-09-27.
  5. ^ Staff, Laurie Savage News-Post. "Farm Queen to be crowned". The Frederick News-Post. Retrieved 2018-09-27.
  6. ^ "Maryland farm queen takes her role seriously". tribunedigital-baltimoresun. Retrieved 2018-09-27.