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TOP STORY, Aug. 25, 2015

Farmers larger than life at Md. State Fair

 

By BRUCE HOTCHKISS

Senior Editor


TIMONIUM, Md. — Maryland farmers will greet visitors to this year’s Maryland State Fair, not in person but via scores of huge posters and banners and signs hung throughout the fairgrounds.
The project, entitled “The Face of My Maryland Farmers” is designed to encourage visitors to explore more of the agricultural side of the fair and even pay a visit to a Maryland farm.
That is accomplished by downloading to your telephone a layAR app which, when pointed at a poster or banner will provide a video or soundbook of a short clip on the farmer and the farm.
It’s a huge project, conceived and designed by Laurie Adelhardt and Susanne Zilberfarb on behalf of the Maryland Grain Producers Association and the Maryland Soybean Board, for which the women are public relations and communications counselors.
Installation was under way last week and Adelhardt assured that it would be fully in place by the time the fair gates open on Friday.
Here’s a rundown on the scope of the project.
•“The Face of My Maryland Farmers” campaign will greet visitors as they enter the fairgrounds.
• Farmer faces cutouts at the three entrances for photo opportunities;
• Posters will be hung throughout the fairgrounds. Banners will line the entrances.
• #mymdfarmers hashtag will carry on the convdrsations.
Hashtag and soundbites will provide content for  the jumbo outdoor screen at the Cow Palace/ice cream booth.
• There will be a photo booth at the Farm & Garden building.
• www.myMDfarmers.com website to provide a base where visitors can link to the  sponsoring organizations – in addition to the soybean board and the grain producers association,  CommonGround, the University of Maryland and of course, the State Fair.
• There will be a welcoming wall mural on the end of the Carpenter Building at the light rail entrance, perhaps 30 feet wide and eight feet deep.
An alert to the soybean board members  who were then considering a request help fund the project with  checkoff  funds  -- a request which they approved --  reported that the campaign was expected to ccost about $15,000.
The Maryland State Fair attracts about 400,000-450,000 people for a 11-day run each August-Labor Day. When you consider all the events at the fairgrounds throughout the year, well over a million people pass through the gates. Given these numbers, the cost per impression is very low. (Some of these elements will last for multiple years, so the cost efficiency is improved even more, the soybean board members were told.
There are three fairground entrances: The Main Gate off York Road, the Grandstand Gate off Timonium Road and the Light Rail Gate. Of the three, the Light Rail Gate is most heavily used, with trains dropping off 700 people every 20 minutes. The project is focusing its efforts there, to hit the most people possible, and to “stake our claim” on the advertising space there.
Welcoming visitors at the three gates will be self-standing signs featuring farmers and farm activities with cut-out holes for people to put their faces in and snap a picture.
The signs will say which gate, so that people can remember where to exit. Ihe #mymdstatefair and #mymdfarmers  will be on the sign, to encourage social media posts.
People who use #mymdstatefair will have their photos be considered for the “video wall” (Jumbo-tron) near the Cow Palace, adding another element of interaction.
Leading up to the gates and into the fairgrounds are chain-link fences that direct pedestrian traffic. They will be featuring Maryland farm families’ photos, names, major crops and hometown, using banners on the fences, inviting visitors to “see if we won a ribbon” in whatever area that farm family may exhibit.
This will introduce people to the diversity of commodities produced in Maryland and encourage them to find a farmer from their hometown and visit the agricultural exhibits/areas at the fair, where they can learn more – possibly from the farmer who is featured.