Last Sunday, I went to the animal fair — the 135th Maryland State Fair, that is — and, just as the song says, the birds and the beasts were there. Known as the “11 best days of summer,” the Maryland State Fair runs for 12 days this year, including Labor Day, Sept. 5. The 100-acre Maryland State Fairgrounds, complete with horse track, is in Timonium, off Interstate 83 just north of Towson and the Baltimore Beltway.
There is a huge midway, live music and no shortage of eating, shopping and lottery opportunities, but the genuine rural atmosphere is the main attraction for city folk.
Despite being the fifth most densely populated state in the Union, Maryland has about 12,000 farms, with an average size of about 160 acres. Farming is the largest single land use in the state, accounting for a third of the total land area. Maryland milk cows, beef cattle and swine each number more than 40,000. There are also more horses per square mile than in any other state, a total of about 80,000.
Though Maryland is supposed to be a solidly blue state, as you walk through the Cow Palace and the Sheep and Swine Building, you’ll see more than a few Trump-Pence signs. Fox 45 News is the official station of the fair. “Hillary Rod-ham Clinton” and “Donald Trump Roast” are two of the contenders in the Swifty Swine pig races.
Setting aside politics, you and your kids can try milking a cow and, if your timing is right, watch a calf or a piglet being born.
Among the other highlights are live Thoroughbred horseracing at 1 p.m. Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday; free performances on the Carolina Carports stage; junior and intermediate English riding in the horse show ring; a birds of prey show; chainsaw carving demonstrations; and a mechanical bull.
The Toyota Concert Series presented by M&T Bank will feature Charlie Puth with special guest Ruth B on Sept. 3 and Jana Kramer with Bobby Bones and the Raging Idiots on Sept. 4. Tickets are $40 and $50, including fair admission.
Fair admission, which doesn’t include midway rides, is $8 for adults, $6 for seniors (62+), $3 for ages 6 to 11, and free for age 5 and under. Parking is $5 at the fairgrounds and free at a park-and-ride lot.
Can’t make it to Timonium this year? The State Fair of Virginia will run from Sept. 23 to Oct. 2 at the Meadow Event Park in Caroline County near Doswell, 75 miles south of D.C.