Howard County Fair: The Best Place to be this August to Support 4-H and Have Fun

Friday, August 4, 2023

Howard County Fair

By: Samantha Dixon

Every summer for the past 76 years in West Friendship, Maryland, the annual Howard County Fair has been the place to be. Visitors get to enjoy lots of fun games, carnival rides, and eat tons of deep-fried food. This weeklong event also gives young 4-Hers the chance to exhibit a variety of projects at the fair to win various awards. At the fair in past years, 4-Her’s exhibit livestock, perishable, and non-perishable items to show the work and time the youth of the 4-H program put into their projects. Not only are exhibits to see, but there is so much more to get the full fair experience.

With the 77th annual Howard County Fair coming up from August 5th through August 12th, all the fair board members, vendors, and exhibitors prepare to get set up and moved into the grounds for one of the biggest weeks of the year.

One of the many important people of the county fair is Sheryl Bennett, a 17 year long 4-H extension educator with the University of Maryland Extension for Howard County. She describes that she came from a multi-generation farm family who all showed in 4-H as well as being a passed 4-H volunteer after aging out of the program. With her passed teaching career in the public school system, Bennett thought it was a perfect fit to become a 4-H educator to oversee and provide leadership to the 4-H youth.

As the Howard County Fair grows every year with new exhibitors, Bennett talks about the many 4-H clubs across the county and why the county’s annual fair plays a huge role for the youth. “Our 4-H program in Howard County is multifaceted,” she says. “We have a club program that meets throughout the year, and other specialty programs too. But the Howard County Fair is what we consider our ‘Super Bowl’ of the 4-H program because it’s the place where we’re able to highlight and showcase all the work and skills that have developed with our 4-H members.”

When talking with Bennett, it reminded me of how much I love the fair. Since I was younger and walking around the fairgrounds, I was mesmerized by the bright lights, Ferris wheel, and the smell of sweet fair food. I vividly remember all the barns and livestock shows, dreaming of showing animals in the future. And with my wish coming true, I had shown livestock for ten years at the county fair and it was one of the best experiences of my life.

Since the Howard County Fair was closed during 2020 due to COVID-19, the fair board over the last few years has thought of new ways to make new and more accessible things to look forward to. On August 5th and 10th, the dog exhibitors will be doing two separate shows consisting of dog obedience and dog agility. This is a wonderful improvement to the dog program that gives fair visitors a chance to see dogs running through tunnels, doing jumps, and much more.

Another exciting thing Bennett talks about is the newly built 4-H indoor annex building. This facility is the main place where all the perishable and non-perishable entries will be. Any fair visitors can walk through the building and see different baked goods, photos, woodwork, and much more. A few changes have been made this year, one of which was the livestock ring schedule. With the livestock shows adjusted at the main show pavilion, it allows for the fair visitors to come and see different species shown on different days throughout the week.

Since more and more people want to get involved with the fair, there has been a wonderful program happening at the Howard County Fair for many years now. Junior showmanship is a program where younger kids under the age of eight get to work with the older 4-Hers and practice showing pigs, sheep, goats, and dairy cattle. Before the fair, they do local workshops to help the youth practice and get used to animals themselves. It’s a wonderful event happening at the show pavilion at the beginning of the week with dozens of young kids attending.

On the fairgrounds, there are dozens of barns made to house livestock during this weeklong event. One of the 4-H volunteers, Amy Brendel, is a 3rd generation farmer in Howard County and had previously shown livestock at the county fair when she was younger. Now, her four children are super involved in the 4-H program and exhibit their own projects at the county fair. Brendel’s three oldest children exhibit breeding and market beef cattle, market lamb, market swine, and crop projects.

Brendel talks about how the annual county fair is a wonderful place for both exhibiters and visitors as well as how much 4-H has impacted her and her children. “The Howard County Fair is a fun, educational experience for people who are living the agriculture lifestyle and those who are not,” she says. “My kids are in the same program I was because it installs a work ethic that is valuable for the rest of their lives.”

With 4-H members exhibiting their livestock and showing them in each of their respected shows, there is a livestock sale at the end of the week. The livestock sale is where exhibitors can auction off their broilers, meat rabbits, market beef steers, market lambs, market swine, and/or market goats. It is a great way to give back to the 4-Hers with funding to allow them to continue to do these projects for the following years. “I love watching my kids walk into the showring with their animals, and it wouldn’t be possible to keep up with the projects without the livestock sale,” Brendel explains. “My kids find it very important to give the best product possible to their buyer every single year.” This year’s livestock sale will be hosted on Friday, August 11th at 5:45 PM.

Hundreds of 4-Hers every year enter in their projects from across the county and even from outside of the county. One of those 4-Hers is Hazel Helm, a recent high school graduate from Baltimore County. She plans on attending the University of Delaware majoring in financial law down the road. Helm entered in lots of projects ranging from sewing, crafts, photography, and much more. As this year’s Howard County fair will be her last, she talked about how much she loved the fair and a few of its exciting events. “The county fair is a place where people come together, and it is super bittersweet that this is my last year as an exhibitor,” she says. “With all of the exciting places to see, there’s also the fair parade where I helped for many years.”

With the Howard County Fair coming up just around the corner, there is so much to do, so much to see and lots of fun to be had. Because of all the hard work that hundreds of people put into the fair, it truly is the best week of the year.


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