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Road Trip: Fair Play in Baltimore County

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Sunday, August 16, 2009

WHY: Swimming pigs, roadside ribs and garden growers.

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HOW FAR: About seven miles from start to finish.

The cows -- and pigs, bull riders, farmers, winsome women and barrel racers -- are coming home. On Aug. 28 to Sept. 7, the Maryland State Fair returns to the 104-acre Timonium Fairgrounds, a rousing time for humans and beasts alike.

Now in its 128th year, the major agricultural event goes back to its state roots, with exhibits and events that spring from the soil (or roll around in the dirt). In addition to calf birthings and pig races, other attractions include rides that lift guests high above the fairgrounds and the Miss Maryland Agriculture pageant, in which 23 beauties compete on the basis of agricultural knowledge. By contrast, at the watermelon seed-spitting contest, spewing -- not smarts -- takes the prize. The chain-saw sculpture demonstration also is bound to create a buzz, as are performances by Boyz II Men and Gavin DeGraw.

Part of a nationwide tradition, the state fair celebrates the agrarian side of America and is geared toward teaching folks about farm life. "We try to get people to come realize where milk comes from," said Andy Cashman, the event's assistant general manager. "We want them to learn and be educated that hamburgers come from beef, and hot dogs come from pigs." And let's not forget those fried foods and their mystery provenance.

-- Ben Chapman

Maryland State Fair, 2200 York Rd., Timonium, Md., 410-252-0200, http://www.marylandstatefair.com. Maryland State Fair admission: $8 adults, $6 seniors, $3 ages 6 to 11. Ride tickets are $1.25, with each ride costing one to six tickets.

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