The Maryland State Fair is the annual state fair for the state of Maryland. It is held at the Maryland State Fairgrounds located near the intersection of York and Timonium roads in Timonium. As of 2006, the fair is an 11-day event customarily beginning in late August and ending around Labor Day.
The first fair was held in 1878 and was known as the Lutherville Fair. The following year, 1879, the fair was moved to its current location in Timonium and was held from September 9 through September 12. In 1906, the Lutherville Fair merged with the Pimlico Fair and became known as the Maryland State Fair. The fair was suspended from 1943 through 1945 during World War II. In 1999, the fair grew to its current length of 11 days.
In 1878, after several unsuccessful attempts to establish an ongoing fair at other locations around Baltimore, a group of Maryland businessmen operated a successful fair on a 4-acre (16,000 m2) site in Lutherville, Maryland. Despite its success, the Lutherville Fair was short-lived because an extension of the Northern Central Railroad (the former Baltimore and Susquehanna Railroad) was constructed through the middle of the fairgrounds.
Their success in Lutherville, however, gave the operators resolve to establish an annual fair, and in December 1878, they incorporated as the Agricultural Society of Baltimore County. The corporation leased a 37-acre (150,000 m2) plot of land on the old Baltimore and York Turnpike on what was then known as “the Timonium Estate.” The first Fair at its new home was held September 9–12, 1879. The Northern Central Railroad, cause of the closing of the Lutherville Fair, was now the primary source of transportation for fairgoers from Baltimore City to the south to the Timonium Fairgrounds during the rest of the century. Other fairgoers walked or rode horses, wagons, carriages, and carts to the fairgrounds using the Turnpike and its southern end of Greenmount Avenue. Later visitors used the old #8 electric street car line of the old United Railway and Electric Company, later after 1935, as the Baltimore Transit Company. After the last street car rode its course down York Road and Greenmount Avenue to Catonsville in 1963, diesel buses brought visitors to the Fairin addition to the thousands of cars parked on acres of lots around the grounds for that last hectic week of summer.
Late in the century, The Agricultural Society of Baltimore County faced stiff competition from the nearby Pimlico Fair, also referred to as “the State Fair”. Ultimately, the two groups held joint fairs in 1894 and 1897, and in 1906, merged to form one corporation – “the Maryland State Fair and Agricultural Society of Baltimore County, Maryland”. Their annual Fair then became known as “The Maryland State Fair”.
The early years at the Fair saw tents and wooden structures in use to exhibit home arts, farm and garden products, and livestock shows. Plowing and working oxen competitions were some of the popular but few attractions. Races were held at the track, and results were forwarded to interested horsemen at Baltimore and Alexandria, Virginia, by way of carrier pigeon. Food concessions consisted of sandwiches made by the farmers’ wives, and amusements involved sideshows, sack races, and greased pole climbing.
The Maryland State Fair grew and prospered, adding many attractions and exhibits, including an airmail delivery at the 1918 Fair. The annual event continued until 1943 when the Fair was interrupted because of the war effort in World War II. The fairgrounds were leased to the U.S. Army for a storage depot and a vehicle repair center. After a three-year suspension, the Fair reopened its gates in 1946.