Tess Brescia of Monrovia and her friends each had their own reason for attending The Great Frederick Fair.
Jennifer Clever from Clarksburg loves the array of animals, from bonny baby goats to the assortment of cattle and different heighted horses that prance about. Monrovia’s Diana Damm went for the food — the scents of which extended beyond the boundaries of the Frederick Fairgrounds and ranged from cooking kettle corn to smoking barbecue.
Brescia, who’s gone to the fair for a decade, enjoys the laid-back atmosphere of it all. Especially after a year away from it.
“It feels great,” Brescia said. “I missed fairs.”
After the early months of the pandemic forced organizers to cancel Frederick’s fair last year, the annual event officially returned Friday.
“It feels wonderful to see all of our familiar faces,” fair manager Karen Nicklas said. “All working together as a team to make this happen for our community.”
Not having the fair in 2020 hindered the organization’s finances and shrunk the period of time planners had to prepare. Normally, Nicklas said, organizers will begin planning for a fair immediately after the previous one ends, giving them about a year. This time around, they had just three months.
The quick turnaround didn’t cause any glaring setbacks for the fair, Nicklas said. Organizers did struggle to hire a sufficient number of ticket sellers, she said, and they’ve asked those planning to attend the fair to purchase their tickets online.
Accompanying the return are a number of new fair features, including a kids zone, pig racing and a stilt walker, Nicklas said. This year’s fair will also feature a man riding a chicken, remote control car racing and a comedy hypnosis show, she added.
In 2019, the fair generated more than $1 million for the local economy. But organizers said garnering support for the county’s farming community is their primary goal.
“Having the carnival and having the vendors, and all other aspects of the fair, is really to support [agriculture],” Nicklas said.
Next to the fairground’s barns, families were arriving with their cattle. Much of Friday evening would be spent preparing for the events of the week ahead. Before entering a barn, the cattle were led past a table where Abby Riggleman and Larry Remsburg — both lifelong fair attendees and residents of Jefferson — went through the check-in process, essentially ensuring all necessary paperwork for the animals was in line.
Riggleman said the fair is vital for keeping the county’s youth engaged in the dairy industry. Remsburg agreed, adding the annual event is great for educating people about the regimented labor that goes into dairy farming. It helps residents understand where their milk’s coming from too, he said.
“It’s volunteer work, and we enjoy it to death,” said Remsburg, who’s helped at the fair for the past three decades.
Within the fairground’s arena, horses of a variety of shapes, sizes and colors pulled equestrian riders in carriages through an obstacle course of cones and other barriers.
Wendy Toms leaned over a railing surrounding the obstacle course as her daughter, Lindsay Ramirez, guided her trotting horse from behind. Horses have always been a part of Toms’ life, and she was thrilled to be able to share the passion with her daughter.
Friday marked the second year the pair travelled from Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, for the event. Ramirez, who loves to compete in anything she can, her mom said, was partaking in an exhibition for horse carriage racing. The exhibition wasn’t the only reason they made the trip south, though.
“It’s a great fair,” Toms said.
Outside the grandstand, a brother and sister scampered up a handful of steps to board a rollercoaster. Parents Kelly and Michael Inman watched from a nearby bench.
“The kids love the fair,” Kelly Inman said. “And we love seeing the animals.”
They had travelled from Ashburn, Virginia, for their fifth go-round at the annual fair. The children enjoyed the roller coaster, and the animals would surely be a sight, but the family was especially looking forward to the evening’s concert.
Brescia and her two friends also planned to stay for the tunes, just as they had in years past. When the trio arrived, carnival games had just been set up, animals were still checking in, and lines hadn’t yet formed in front of food vendors.
But by the time they made their way to the animals, the venue was coming to life. Overcast skies had parted to usher in the late summer sun, and people in groups of two, three, four and more were trickling in. Rides began twirling teenagers in stomach-churning circles, young children boarded ponies, and fair game concessionaires encouraged passersby to step right up.
The Great Frederick Fair is back.