Mary­land, front and cen­ter

Af­ter 35-year ab­sence, staff try ‘to get it go­ing again’

Baltimore Sun - - FRONT PAGE - By Nel­son Cof­fin

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.”

JEN RYNDA/BAL­TI­MORE SUN ME­DIA GROUP PHO­TOS

BRIAN KRISTA/BAL­TI­MORE SUN ME­DIA GROUP

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.

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