LEONARDTOWN, MD – A strong weather front of high winds and heavy rain swept across Southern Maryland on Thursday afternoon as the Seventy-Fifth production of the St. Mary’s County Fair began its 2022 season. The storm quickly stopped, the clouds departed, and brilliant sunshine replaced the dreary afternoon ending the dreaded rainy weather that is a tradition of the Fair as much as crowing roosters, screams from riders on the Tilt a Whirl, and loud engines from the tractor pull.

Capt. Steve Hall was on hand to watch the Queen of Tolerance pageant and guide security.

Just as the storm passed, the national epidemic of mental illness, mixed with the convenience of social media and entitled teen misfits, resulted in the St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Department issuing a warning to the public. The warning from the Sheriff was that intercepted threats of possible violence at St. Mary’s County high schools and possibly at the Fair itself are being investigated. Sheriff Tim Cameron promised that increased security would be provided for all such activities, which likely disrupted the weekend plans of at least half of the agency, which only works nine to five on weekdays in specialized desk jobs.

Cameron issued the following statement: “The St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office is currently investigating non-specific and generalized threats of violence regarding the St. Mary’s County Fair and public high school football games and other school activities. The St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office wants to assure the public our agency has numerous uniformed deputies and staff monitoring and working the St. Mary’s County Fair and other public events this weekend.”

Dozens of police officers were present at the St. Mary’s Fairgrounds on Sept. 22, 2022. THE CHESAPEAKE TODAY photo

After Cameron got caught with his paddy wagons down at the Hollywood Volunteer Fire Department Carnival when teen gangs from Lexington Park were allowed to carry their warfare to the carnival resulting in a murder in the parking lot. Frightened citizens shielded their children and ran for cover from the gunfire, while the carnival was canceled for two weeks.

A visit to the County Fair on an opening day confirmed that a heavy police presence of heavy-weight deputies walking and motoring around the grounds in ATVs were monitoring all areas of the expansive fairgrounds for any potential trouble.

St. Mary’s Sheriff Deputies on patrol in an ATV at the county fair. THE CHESAPEAKE TODAY photo

Leonardtown High School, which sent out an emergency notice to parents a few days before the Fair began that threats of a shooting had been dealt with and the culprits identified, hosts a football game with North Point on Friday, September 23. Leonardtown High School is across the street from the fairgrounds, and many fairgoers park on the parking lots that serve that school, Leonardtown Middle School, and the Tech Center.

Great Mills High School plays Chopticon at Chopticon on September 23, 2022, while St. Mary’s Ryken is away at Good Counsel in Silver Spring, Md.

Families were out in force on Thursday, the first day of the St. Mary’s Fair, with crowds inspecting the exhibits from home and garden to flowers, rabbits and goats, sheep and steers. Prizes for vegetables, paintings, homemade jams, and all manner of crafts were decided by judges and adorned with blue ribbons.

Dave Dent of Chiefs Bar, left, Sen. Jack Bailey, and School Board President Karin Bailey at the stuffed ham booth. THE CHESAPEAKE TODAY photo

While the main event of Opening Day was the crowning of the Queen of Tolerance, hungry crowds feasted on funnel cakes cooked up by Jobs Daughters – a staple of the Fair for decades, spicy Southern Maryland Stuffed Ham sandwiches offered up by Dave Dent, of Chiefs of Tall Timbers, which were pronounced authentic by Senator Jack Bailey and his wife School Board President Karin Bailey and their son Taft.

Master of Ceremonies Congressman Roy Dyson. THE CHESAPEAKE TODAY photo

The Queen of Tolerance Pageant with Congressman Roy Dyson as the Master of Ceremonies provided a unique observance of the historical reunification of county residents who celebrated the harvest from 1947 to 1963 in fairs separated by race. Dyson’s agricultural roots in the county center around Great Mills, where his family has operated a sawmill, hardware, and building supply store since 1954. Dyson was first elected to the Maryland House of Delegates in 1974, to the United States Congress for five terms in 1980, and to the Maryland State Senate for five terms in 1994.

Congressman Dyson introduced the Cub Scout Pack 1203, who provided a Color Guard to present the Maryland and United States Flags and led the audience in the Pledge of Allegiance, for which everyone stood and applauded. Next, the Spring Ridge Middle School Chorus regaled the crowd, many of them being their families, with The Star-Spangled Banner.

Spring Ridge Middle School Chorus

The Farmers and Homemakers Fair was held on a different week for black residents during that time period, and both fairs crowned Queens of Tolerance even if doing so was in a strangely intolerant time until the Supreme Court decision of Brown vs. the Board of Education, which set in motion the end of segregation.

The event is named in commemoration of The Maryland Toleration Act passed in 1649 to safeguard religious tolerance in the Colony of Maryland, making it the only colony with such protection for citizens. The road to hell is paved with good intentions, and most historians neglect to relate that the Act was nullified in 1654. Until the Declaration of Independence in 1776, Maryland wasn’t quite the model of religious tolerance that is often told. Catholics were forced to worship secretly, and the Protestant Royal Governor destroyed the Catholic chapel in St. Mary’s City.

Maryland nullified this law from 1654 to 1661 and from 1692 to the end of the Revolutionary period, indicating that Maryland was not always a model of religious toleration during this period.

Fair President John Richards with Elaine Toney Cooper, Queen from 1960.

Fair Board Association President John Richards welcomed the large crowd in the Auditorium, which saw every seat filled and spectators standing along the walls. Richards noted that the fair board has worked hard and, with the help of many people, found photos of the Farmers and Homemakers Queens and now posts those framed photos in the Auditorium along with the other queens, with the result of two Queens for the same year in many cases.

The Fair Association Queen of Tolerance Chairperson Rachel Rodgers, Brittany Gilbert, Debbie Brookins, and Beth Fiske worked diligently to produce the event. The organizers were pleased to find as many past Queens as possible to be on hand Agnes Mills Herbert from 1955 Farmers and Homemakers, escorted by her son Tyvie Herbert. She then crowned the 2022 Queen of Tolerance at the end of the evening. 

2022 Queen of Tolerance is Julia Nilsson of Great Mills High School. First Runner Up: Bridget Cory of Chopticon High; Second Runner Up: Leah Imbriale of Leonardtown High
The Princesses of the 75th Queen of Tolerance Court were: Bridget Cory, Victoria Drury, Lydia Eccleston, Eliza Eschenbrenner, Erika Gensley, Leah Imbriale, Hemani Kumar, Kiley Milligan, Julia Nilsson, Felicity Thompson, and Adalynn Williamson.

Other past Queens were Elva Anderson Mattingly, 1952; Alma Thompson Jordan, 1956; Margaret Swales Fant, 1959; Patricia Adams Gardener, 1959; Toni Wormwood Lesko, 1960; Elaine Toney Cooper, 1960; Jan Colleary Timmer, 1972; Marylee Candela Kreamer, 1974; Bonnie Mattingly Davis, 1976; Jennifer Rose Norris, 1993; and Rachel Fiske Rodgers, 2008.

Along with the awards for Queen and first and second runner-up among sashes, crowns and flowers were also scholarships.

  • FAIR DAYS SOON! TICKETS, TICKETS, GET YOUR TICKETS! or just buy them at the door like everyone else!

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