Although it’s growing all the time, St. Mary’s County still has plenty of events that celebrate its down-home, rural heritage. The best and biggest example of that is setting up right now just south of Leonardtown.
The 73rd annual St. Mary’s County Fair will be ready to roll Thursday afternoon, the culmination of the work of its longtime board president, John Richards, his wife, Ann, and seemingly countless volunteers.
The Richardses are always figuring ways to spruce up the fairgrounds, which has become a major gathering place in St. Mary’s in recent years for all manner of festivals, concerts and other events. But the county fair is still the granddaddy of them all.
As always, there’s something on the grounds that gets updated or improved to make the fair experience better for all. This year volunteers, including some associated with the local Christmas in April chapter, built a new and sturdier stage in the auditorium building where the baby contest, speech contest and other events are held.
In terms of entertainment, one addition that’s sure to grab plenty of attention will be dachshund races, interspersed with the longtime crowd-pleasing pig races.
Also, fairgoers should keep an eye out for local Lions Club members, who will be volunteering at a mobile health RV all four days to offer free vision and hearing screening to all ages.
So that’s some of what’s new. Everything else is just as you’d expect at the county fair. Want to see some farm animals? This is the right place. As always, there are plenty of pigs, sheep, cattle, lambs and goats, as well as chickens and rabbits.
Want to see an enormous watermelon? They’ve got you covered at the fair, not to mention loads of other fruits and vegetables of all varieties. And don’t forget to see the flowers.
Today, Wednesday, is entry day, with farm and garden submissions for judging starting at 11 a.m. for those who didn’t preregister. Most of the other categories are accepting entries from 1 to 8 p.m. Overall, John Richards said, there will likely be 6,000 entries or more filling the fairgrounds’ buildings.
Gates will open Thursday around 3 p.m. when judging is complete, and exhibit buildings officially open at 4 p.m. The carnival section of the fair will feature a one-price ticket event tomorrow evening, and a 4-H horse drill team demonstration will complete the day’s activities. Also Thursday evening, the new Queen of Tolerance will be crowned.
On Friday, all children will be admitted free until 5 p.m. The fair will be in full swing by then, opening at 9 a.m. and closing at 9 p.m., and feature 4-H horse and livestock shows, more pig (and wiener dog) races, a speech contest and lots of other entertainment throughout the day. As with last year, fair organizers are asking that no one smoke or vape on the fairgrounds on Friday. Much of the fairgrounds is already off limits to smoking throughout the fair anyway.
Saturday, known as Parade Day, will kick off with the fair parade at 10:30 a.m. and continue with livestock auctions, a jousting tournament and lots of other fun activities. Exhibit buildings will again be open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Exhibits remain open on Sunday, or Family Day, from 9 a.m. until about 6 p.m. There will also be a gospel concert, the St. Mary’s Riding Club’s fair horse show and the popular antique tractor pull.
Carnival rides open Thursday from 5 to 10 p.m., on Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., and on Sunday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Ticket prices vary. Gate admission to the fair is $7 for adults, $1 for children ages 6 to 12 and free for children younger than 6. Passes good for all four days can be purchased for $15 for adults or $2 for children ages 6 to 12. Check out the website www.smcfair.somd.com for more information.
Taken as a whole, the county fair looks like a giant and eclectic farm. And that’s the point. It’s an unabashed celebration of country life, coming just as summer changes into the harvest season of autumn. It’s an acknowledgment that for all our technological advances and increasingly sophisticated ways, the pastoral atmosphere of St. Mary’s is alive and kicking. So come out and enjoy.