It's just before 4 a.m. Thursday at The Great Frederick Fair and all's quiet except for the sound of crickets. 

The midway is dark, vendor tents are closed and there's not a soul to be found except one security guard at gate 3, the only open entrance. 

Fair Before Dawn

Maddie Gooding sleeps in a hammock in a dairy barn in the early hours Thursday morning before getting up and preparing for the open class dairy competition. Maddie and nearly 20 kids and some parents spend nights in the barns with their cattle.

But the silence breaks the closer you get to dairy barns at the west end of the fairgrounds. A light or two can be seen from a distance as a few people carry straw and feed to and from the barns. 

By 4:30 a.m., other barns begin to show signs of life. Inside each of the barns are kids sleeping in hammocks, on cots, in chairs or makeshift beds made from hay bales. Some of the parents have spent the night as well, having gotten up to prepare for Thursday’s open class dairy competition. As they move, they take the time to wake a few of the kids.

Fair Before Dawn

Amber Osbaugh pushes a wheelbarrow of used cow bedding to a pile shortly after 4 a. m. Thursday morning past mostly quite dairy barns at the Great Frederick Fair. Many of the children parents are up extra early to get a start on preparations for show day.

Once the children are up, they begin to lead the cows and heifers to the wash rack where the animals get hosed down and brush the cattle until they are clean. They don’t seem to mind the squirting water in the early morning brisk air. 

When the cattle are clean, the students and adults begin readying the animals for the big show that begins at 8:30 a.m. Soon, the sun begins to rise over the midway and vendors and eateries begin to get busy also preparing for the day. 

On Saturday, their work will come to an end for those who have participated. All that will remain is leading the livestock to trailers for the trip home and planning for next year.

Fair Before Dawn

The dairy wash rack filled with kids at 5 a.m. as they got ready for the day.

(4) comments


So do the kids generally stay overnight all of the week? Or just before showings?


....and there's not a sole to be found..”.

Ha ha ha. Does not Bill Green, or the FNP proofreader (IF they even have one ? apparently not, judging from the plethora of grammar and spelling mistakes that abound in almost every edition, ... maybe they are hiring for that position?) ..know the difference between sole and soul ?


Why is the security guard the only one wearing shoes?


Thursday kiddy rides were to be opened at 12:30 till 2:00 as published in Events. Took grandson to find only select rides open. One parent was frustrated and questioned authorities who confirmed only a selection was operating “according to fair board request” suggesting it was tided somehow to operation of the adult rides. Possibly due to power generators? We and other parents & grandparents (us) were a little frustrated to find this were our grandsons. Suggest fair officials should make clear and publish that only a select few kiddy rides would be operating in the future, if in fact this was the case? Sub note: Saw a few apparent ride operators standing around behind rides showing apparent little interest to encourage riders. Not sure what was going on in the kiddy rides area. Fair board may need to look into clarifying?

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