GAITHERSBURG – This city may be on the cutting edge of technology, but according to some the charm is in the city’s past.
In a city that boasts of being the home of several biotech and software companies, just a short distance from the I-270 technology corridor, the Montgomery County Agricultural Fair demonstrates that the County’s agricultural history remains an important part of its life.
One of the first exhibits to greet patrons who shuttle from Lakeforest Mall to the Fair’s Chestnut Street entrance is the Old Timers Show. First started in 1962, this exhibit provides numerous opportunities to experience farm life of years past, including instruction in blacksmithing, woodworking, and an old-time General Store.
“Kids love the demonstrations, they love to see how things were done back then,” said Judy O’Neal, one of the exhibit’s organizers and a past superintendent. “Seniors love the Old Timers Show because they can remember and relate to everything we have here. I remember my grandmother using a butter churner like this.” O’Neal’s father served as the event’s superintendent for many of its early years. The most rewarding aspect of the fair for her is seeing large numbers of people volunteer their time and energy to keep it running year after year.
A short distance from the Old Timers Show, The Big Cheese sells grilled cheese sandwiches and blocks of local and Wisconsin cheese to raise revenue for the fair. Ed Hogan, 85, co-chairman of the Big Cheese, has had an appreciation for rural life ever since he spent childhood summers helping on his uncle’s farm.
“Farmers have a different attitude about living than most other people,” Hogan said. “They take things and accept them a lot quicker. They’re willing to put up with things because they know how to cope with them. A problem is a problem only if they don’t know how to deal with it.” Hogan has been involved with the fair since 1969.
“The fair has gotten better every year,” Hogan said. “We add new things that relate agriculture to everyday life and show people that without agriculture, they wouldn’t exist.”
The Big Cheese hopes to surpass last year’s record of selling 11,852 grilled cheese sandwiches.
Every year at the fair, a number of young children enthusiastically embrace the farmer’s life. MaKayla LeMarr, a 4-H club member, is only 12 years old, but has already won champion trophies for breeding shorthorn cattle. She was introduced to the lifestyle on her family’s farm in Dickerson, and has high hopes for her shorthorns this year, Mr. Big Ears and Big Man.
“We have one of the largest agricultural reserves in the state, so it’s going to stick around,” said Sarah Rogers, executive director of the historical society Heritage Montgomery, a partner of the fair. “Above all, we hope that people of all ages have fun at the fair and that they gain an appreciation for our agricultural history and the lifestyles that are offered in Montgomery County.”