Remembering fairs past

August 02, 2002|by KEVIN CLAPP

As Ag Expo 2002 revs up for a celebration of contemporary agriculture, the Washington County Rural Heritage Museum is taking an affectionate look back at the event's fair history.

Beginning Saturday, Aug. 3, and continuing every day through Ag Expo, the Sharpsburg Pike museum is trotting out old posters, programs and artifacts illustrating all that has made the fair a touchstone for generations of county residents.

"You mention the fair and people light up, even people who didn't grow up around here. The fair was a big deal," says museum volunteer and Herald-Mail columnist Dorry Baird Norris. "People met their husbands at the fair, won prizes at the fair, learned to do things in front of a crowd at the fair. ... Everybody could show what they could do."


So visitors to the two-year-old museum can view a replica program from the first fair, in 1855, near where the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts in City Park is today.

There will be a paperweight dating back to the early 1900s, a tiny glass mug and an equestrian medal. Promotional posters will take viewers on a ride through the years.

Much of what is in the exhibit, Norris says, is written history. But it comes to life in surprising ways, such as a 1908 roster of apple varieties on display, names such as rambo, yellow bell flower, sheeps nose, King of Toms County, bachelor's blush and maiden's blush that are no longer produced in the area.

"The idea is that the fair really is a timeline history of the community," Norris says. "We not only want to show artifacts and collect artifacts, but we want to show history and how life was like. And the fair is a big part of that."

Begun last year to remember Washington County's rural history, the museum chronicles life in the area between 1740 and 1940. On display are a series of plows, cornhuskers and more to show how different life was for residents.

Highlighting the fair, Norris says, is a natural extension of the museum's mission.

"Any part of our history is important to each one of us. We need to know what came before. In order to appreciate what you have, you need to know what was," she says. "I think people moving into Washington County at this point realize what a strong rural heritage there is here."

If you go . . .

Remembering the Fair, an exhibit of pictures, posters, books and more celebrating the history of the fair in Hagerstown

Saturday, Aug. 3, through Sunday, Sept. 8

2 to 4 p.m. Aug. 3

1 to 4 p.m. Aug. 4 to 9

1 to 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays from Aug. 10 through Sept. 8

Washington County Rural Heritage Museum

7313 Sharpsburg Pike


Admission is free, but donations are accepted.

For information, call 240-420-1712.

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