I guess it’s just a function of probability and statistics, but the Harford County Farm Fair seems to be a lightning rod, sometimes quite literally, for summertime calamity.
When you have that many tens of thousands of people crowded together in a confined area during the heat of summer with an equal number of beasts of burden, it seems only logical that all hell will break loose now and again.
This year, the farm fair oddity occured on Saturday, an overcast and muggy day to begin with, which seemed just ripe to spawn a crowd-panicking thunderstorm. Well, Mother Nature outdid herself this year. Sure, she blackened the sky with ominous afternoon clouds and sent reverberating thunder rolling out from the heavens, but she didn’t stop there.
I first noticed it while watching the local radar screen on my computer. The mass of pink, purple, yellow, orange and green moving through Harford County suddenly turned into a pure white, perfect circle centered over Bel Air.
“This can’t be good,” I thought. It wasn’t a half-hour before I had three separate people reporting to me that there were tornado warnings at at the farm fair and even a funnel cloud sighted in the area.
According to WBAL Radio, there were several reports of funnel clouds around Bel Air and Edgewood on Saturday afternoon:
Tornado Warning For Kent, Queen Anne’s; Harford Tornado Warning Expires
Saturday, August 02, 2008
WBAL Radio as reported by Robert Lang
WBAL Meteorologist John Collins talks about the storms this morning and the storms expected later today.
The National Weather Service has issued a Tornado Warning for central Queen Anne’s County and Southwestern Kent County in Maryland until 5:30 p.m.
A tornado warning that had been in effect for Southern Harford County expired at 4:30 p.m.
Reports were made to authorities of funnel clouds in and near Bel Air and Edgewood, but Harford County Government’s emergency operations center says it has had no reports of any damage or injuries from the apparent tornadoes.
The notion of a twister clearing out the crowds and the air at the farm fair seemed only fitting and reminded me of another calamity I nearly came face to face with at the same event a few years ago.
It must have been three or so years ago and I was covering the farm fair for the local newspaper. I was writing a feature on a young rodeo bullrider from Jarrettsville (who’s name escapes me right now) so I camped out next to the fence where the bullrider and his fellow competitors were taking turns getting thrown from an animal that obviously was never intended to be ridden.
In the blink of an eye, one of the thousand-or-so-pound bulls bucked his rider, broke free of his handlers and hurdled the containment fence in a single bound. I was leaning up against a set of aluminum bleachers at the time and, without thinking, took two steps backward beneath the bleachers and through the scaffolding holding the structure together.
Those two steps back made all the difference.
I had been standing beside an older woman and her grandson, who did not take the same two steps back. Before anyone could say or do anything, the bull lowered its head, connected with the woman and sent her flying about 15 feet horizontally through the air. The beast then pinned the small boy, about 6 years old, to the ground and began goring him into the ground with its horns.
By then people were screaming, security rushed to the scene with shotguns in hand and the bull moved on from the boy to run off across the farm fair landscape.
The woman and boy were taken away by ambulance, but were only bruised and scraped. As I stooped down to pick up the woman’s crushed glass, I heard something that reminded me of “The Wave” at a baseball game. I turned to watch the crowd of farm fair patrons swell and flow like a school of fish or a flock of birds. They were screaming and running as the bull charged through the farm fair.
I don’t even recall how it all ended (I think the bull was contained and things eventually settled down), but I remember taking a few minutes from jotting in my notepad to think about those two steps I took backward.
That’s my best farm fair story, of many, so now let’s hear yours.