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BY COLUMNISTS

| Joe Charlebois | Guest Columnist | Harry M. Covert | Norman M. Covert | Ken Kellar | Patricia A. Kelly | Edward Lulie III | Tom McLaughlin | Cindy A. Rose | Richard B. Weldon Jr. |

DOCUMENTS


The Tentacle


September 22, 2006

All Things Fried and Fattening

Richard B. Weldon Jr.

The world passes by the GOP tent behind Building 9 at the Great Frederick Fair. Well, at least the world within the grounds of the fair.

The Frederick County Agricultural Society is in the midst of their annual display of the charm, character, and appeal of our agricultural heritage.

Bozo is back, and he's not in either the Republican or Democrat tent. Pass by the Dunk Bozo game near the Patrick Street entrance to the infield parking area, and you too can experience the thrill of insults blared over a loudspeaker. Pass by during a lull in the crowd and you're almost guaranteed to be humiliated!

Walking past the Freak Show tent, a group of young women were trying to decide if it was worth the price of admission to see the six-legged cow and Electra, the woman who can absorb electric current. Methinks not.

When passing the Democrat's tent, I never know how to act. I try to stop and talk to candidates outside their tent, and a hug from longtime county employee and party standard-bearer Mary Alice Marks is mandatory. The "evil eye" from some, especially newcomers, causes me to move along.

Conversely, Democrat commissioner candidates Kai Hagen and John Norman (Orphans Court) often stop by the GOP tent and visit with both candidates and voters. Excepting one angry little tête-à-tête with a GOP commissioner incumbent, they are welcomed in their frequent visits.

Those same Democratic Party newcomers demonstrated their lack of social skills during Gov. Robert Ehrlich's several hours-long visit on Tuesday. One classy party member started a chant of "O'Malley, O'Malley" as the governor stopped by to greet her fellow Democrat candidates.

Years ago, when former Gov. Parris N. Glendening stopped by the fair (one of the very few times he bothered to visit), he was welcomed as he passed the GOP tent. He couldn't go in, for heaven's sake.

Speaking of candidates, many are highly visible during Fair Week. At the midway point, the most obvious political aspirants are Charles Jenkins and Kai Hagen. Both want to be on the next Board of County Commissioners, and both are putting in the time to meet voters.

GOP sheriff's candidate Chuck Jenkins has the most effective political organization, based on the number of lapel stickers and blue t-shirts emblazoned with his name.

Del. Paul Stull shared some sage advice many years ago. He said that fairgoers might not know that a candidate is at the fair, but they'll all know when a candidate isn't there.

Party workers stand out in front of the tents armed with rolls of lapel stickers for various candidates. These workers measure their success based on how many strangers they can coerce into wearing a sticker.

Oddly, many of these stickers end up stuck on Montgomery, Howard, Carroll, and Washington County residents. They just nod blankly as the worker sticks on a candidate's name and logo, wander several feet away from the tent, then reach up and rip the stickers off and toss them in the trash.

A candidate can't help but wonder if this method of sticker application might not be the most effective tool. Some of the stickers survive for the whole circuit, so they must offset the quick-toss variety.

Lots of signs get picked up during Fair Week. Folks wander in and ask if a sign can be held for them. Too embarrassing to be seen carrying a sign around the midway, but they stop by on their out to retrieve their paraphernalia.

Governor Ehrlich's aforementioned visit set a record. He moves in a slow, labored movement, hindered by anyone who wants to shake his hand or pose for pictures. Tom Darden, his photographer, was put to the test this week snapping grip-and-grins all afternoon.

A few notable pictures included Brunswick Councilman Ron Bruchey, who had his picture taken with the governor last year as he was running for the City Council. Ron used that photo throughout his campaign. Tuesday he got a picture standing next to the governor as an incumbent councilman.

Governor Ehrlich also stopped by the Carroll Manor Fire Company tent and posed for a picture with the volunteers. This wasn't a planned stop. Sen. David Brinkley was leading the governor around the fairgrounds, and as we all approached the Carroll Manor tent, I asked the governor if he'd mind stopping in to say hello. He veered into the tent and asked the volunteers to come out front.

Governor Ehrlich also visited the Garden Building, prompted by an invitation from Del. Paul Stull, the farmer's best friend. Instead of a quick stop, this turned into an extended tour, with the Governor spending time talking to a number of booth attendants about everything from Master Gardeners to honey production.

A personal favorite aspect of this visit was spending time with Governor Ehrlich's mother and father. The governor told us that he loves coming to the Great Frederick Fair so much that he wanted to share the feeling with his Mom and Dad.

In a conversation with Mrs. Ehrlich, her immense pride in her son's significant accomplishments is both obvious and justified. The warm and welcoming reception all over the fairgrounds - with few exceptions - must demonstrate to the Ehrlich's that Frederick County is definitely Ehrlich Country.

All of this writing about the fair and still no mention of food, glorious food. The tally so far: a beef sandwich platter from Hemp's of Jefferson. Billy oversees this annual ode to gluttony with the eyes of a hawk, refilling tea and condiments and welcoming returning guests like family.

Another delight has been several large peach teas from my good friends from Wings and Pizza in Brunswick. They operate the lemonade stands at either end of the grandstand building, and they quench the thirst of thousands of fairgoers.

A "cookies and cream" ice cream in a cup from the Dairy Bar, thanks to the Frederick County Farm Bureau. I try to eat my ice cream before my shift dipping for others, because after that I don't even want to look into those tubs!

Several meals at the Carroll Manor Fire Company food tent, my personal favorite place to eat at the Fair. The chili dogs are like a meal from heaven, and the seafood platter puts Red Lobster to shame!

A crabcake from Vigilant Hose is a little bit of paradise wrapped in a hamburger bun. No tarter or cocktail sauce for me, I want to taste the crabmeat! During the governor's visit, he stopped by Vigilant Hose. They wanted a picture, but they couldn't get out of the booth.

Recognizing their dilemma, Bob Ehrlich hopped up onto the counter and spun around to face the front. The volunteers all gathered behind him and voilà, a nice group shot! Couldn't help but wonder if any other gubernatorial posterior had ever graced that counter, but probably not.

Tomorrow will be a sad day, as the fair concludes for another year. Better get another Carroll Manor chili dog!



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