The unrelenting heat didn’t stop the crowds from coming out to The Great Frederick Fair’s first full day Saturday. From participating in tractor pulls to witnessing the birth of a calf, Frederick County residents and tourists alike basked in the 159th annual exhibition.
For many, the return of the fair was an opportunity to share nostalgia and make new memories with their families. Jeff Farver said he takes his two daughters to the fair every year. He grew up on a dairy farm and showed cows at the fair, so it felt odd not going to the fair last year after decades of attendance.
“It was definitely different last year, but pretty much everything was different about last year,” Farver said.
Farver’s daughter Evelyn participated in the kids’ pedal tractor pull, held by the Plow Boy Pulling Team, who have been hosting the pull for more than 25 years. Sarah Steelman said there’s some sentimentality in the event for her, and she enjoys seeing the excitement of the kids every year.
“I grew up doing it, so it’s fun to see the kids doing it,” Steelman said.
The tractor pull was divided into ages 5-6, 7-8, and 9-10. Graeme Heitzler, 6, won the first contest by pulling 110 pounds over 24 feet. His mom, Sarah Heitzler, was born and raised in Damascus and grew up going to the fair every year. Now, she takes her three children to the fair with her husband, Bill.
“It’s one of the highlights of every summer,” he said. The family said they always make a point to go to Hemp’s to get pulled pork and pit beef sandwiches for dinner.
Another timeless tradition is the birth of calves in the Birthing Center. On Friday night, a little after 10 p.m., a cow gave birth to Jaxson, a steer who weighs 70 pounds. Saturday afternoon continued the tradition of one birth a day with another calf’s birth around 3:45 p.m. A small crowd spectated the 20-minute delivery of the heifer cow named Ginger.
The mother cow was from Cow Comfort Inn in Union Bridge. Owner David Pyle said it was the farm’s first year volunteering their cows, and he was happy to do so to educate youth who may not know about agriculture.
Superintendent Gene Bollinger welcomed the fair’s return, and he was able to spread education to more children and see his friends in the Birthing Center. Going without it last year was rough, he said.
“I hated it. I missed it, not just because of the process, but I missed the educational part. I [enjoy being] with the kids, teaching them what we do,” Bollinger said. “We’ll get the lambs out, and we’ll interact with the calves, and that brings a tear to my eye.”
Tradition continued later into the day with the Pretty Cow Contest. The event allows children to show their creative side, dressing up both themselves and their cow in matching costumes. While they show their cow, an announcer reads a script written by the shower about the importance of dairy. Judges make their decisions based on originality, script, cleanliness, control of animal, general appearance and the promotion of dairy.
Jaime Remsburg, one of the judges, had entered the pretty cow contest herself when she was younger. As a judge, she saw some of the adults who she used to work with as a kid now have their own grandchildren who show their cows.
The youngest category was the pee-wees, who are under 5. The winner, 2-year-old Bailee Stevens, dressed her cow Gem up as “Baby Shark” from the popular YouTube video and song. Her mother, Katie Stevens, showed cattle when she was a student.
“It’s a good way to learn a work ethic,” Stevens said. “She loves taking care of her animal.”
No matter what families decided to do or participate in at the fair Saturday, they were all relieved to get back to the time-honored tradition.
“I’m glad to see everyone out here,” Farver said. “It’s kind of a breath of fresh air after the last year we’ve had.”