Maryland, front and center
After 35-year absence, staff try ‘to get it going again’
Above, Jennifer Brown, 18, of White Hall shows her entry during the 4-H heifer show Friday at the Maryland State Fair in Timonium. At left, Nina Harris, 13, of Brandywine, left, and sister and brother Madison Gaynor, 10, and Maxwell Gaynor, 11, sample the culinary fare at the fairgrounds. The fair, which runs through Sept. 5, is reviving an old tradition this year with the return of the “grand parade” Sunday.
When the Maryland State Fair revives its “grand parade” tradition this weekend after a 35-year absence, Marvin and Libby Fox will be celebrating more than a simple march past the grandstand at the Timonium fairgrounds.
The Parkville couple met at the fair parade in 1959.
At the time, Libby Weber was a 16-year-old member of the Cub Hill Girls 4-H Club and was chatting with a friend when she noticed Marvin Fox “showing off while trying to be funny.”
“That’s just me,” Marvin said. “I was trying to impress her.”
They married three years afterward, and four children and eight grandchildren later, the couple will attend the fair parade Sunday at the fairgrounds off York Road.
The parade is part of the opening weekend of the 135th annual Maryland State Fair, which runs daily through Sept. 5.
It’s been 35 years since the parade was held — the last one marked the fair’s 100th anniversary in 1981.
Andy Cashman, general manager of the fair, said staff came up with the idea to revive it.
“We were brainstorming and listening to former 4-H members and other exhibitors about their favorite things from past fairs,” he said. “Many of them brought up the parade, and we thought it would be a great idea to bring it back for the 135th anniversary.”
Cashman was part of that last parade in 1981 as a member of the Chestnut Ridge 4-H Club. He noted with some pride that his club won first prize for its float.
Doris and Ruth Rye, sisters who live in Parkville, have memories of the state fair parades of the 1940s.
Their late brother, Lenny, participated in one of the first parades in 1948 when he was 16, appearing on a float with a tractor and a plow.
Doris Rye recalled making a float of papier-mache depicting a giant loaf of bread.
“Everybody had floats then, and they’d come from all over the state,” she said.
The parade “was always a great time,” said Marvin Fox. “All the different 4-H clubs would be in the same area working on their floats before the parade. Everybody knew everybody else, so it was a lot of fun.”
This year’s parade will step off at 6 p.m. Sunday at the fairgrounds racetrack with agriculture-related floats, horses, a marching band, the Orioles and Ravens mascots, and a procession of antique farm equipment and fire vehicles. Winners will receive cash prizes, trophies and ribbons.
Last year, more than 560,000 attended the state fair over its run — up from about 354,000 attendees in 2014 and creeping toward its record attendance mark of 618,998 in 1990.
Cashman hopes the parade can build on that momentum and also tap a sense of nostalgia.
“The parade was such a special thing. We’re trying to get it going again,” Cashman said. “We’ve got lot of local flavor, and I think everyone loves a parade.”
Libby and Marvin Fox find a picture of Libby riding a parade float in a past Maryland State Fair. The Parkville couple met at a fair parade in 1959 and married three years later.