There may be bigger news fish to fry but when what's hot and battered is a Twinkie or a funnel cake, we must start this week's column with a tribute to the one, the only, Montgomery County Agricultural Fair, which continues through Saturday, Aug. 18.
Where else can you celebrate the fact that a third of the land in Montgomery County is designated for farming by participating in a toilet-decorating contest?
In addition to fried food, there are carnival rides, live music, monster trucks, a children's theater and, of course, live animals, including racing pigs. More than 200,000 people are expected to pay the $10 entrance fee to attend.
Become a Rookie Farmer
Speaking of farming, it's the new cutting edge career in these parts. Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett has unveiled the New Farmer Pilot Project, funded by an SBA grant. It would train and place farmers on private farms for five years or more.
The number of farms in Montgomery County is down about 17 percent but new farmers are needed because the number of small farms has grown by 13 percent, according to recent data, with an emphasis on "table food" -- the sort of going-local produce you’d find at a farmer’s market or CSA.
Bye Bye Brickyard
Speaking of farming Part Two, Potomac residents are fighting the loss of a 32-year-old organic farm at the Brickyard Road School site in their community but it's schedued to be turned over to Montgomery County on Thursday, Aug. 16.
For nearly two years, the property has been at the center of a heated battle between the county, which wants to turn the site into youth soccer fields, and local activists who want to save the farm.
Potomac Patch has in-depth coverage of the issues and will pubish a video documentary this week on the Brickyard Road controversy and what the future may hold for the property.
Picking on Pepco
If every time you get a text alert of a storm watch, you dread an ensuing power outage, you're not alone. About 150 residents laid out their frustration over Pepco's response to the the June 29 derecho -- and their fears of future mass outages -- at the first of eight hearings that state utility regulators have scheduled around Maryland. The hearing went on for four hours while residents showed photos of their suffering and told touching and harrowing tales of surviving record heat. C. Ellis of Potomac even read a poem he penned: "Montgomery County is a nice place to be/Unless you like electricity,” adding, "My wife grew up in the former Soviet Union. They had communism, but they had power."
The storm left 483,639 Pepco customers without power, with thousands of homes out in Montgomery and Prince George's counties for up to a week.
Rocky Gets Knocked Out
It's hard to identify an underdog in this clash of the suburban titans, but Rockville conceded defeat in a boundary dispute with Gaithersburg, which voted unanimously to annex the former Great Indoors/Sears site on Shady Grove Road.
Gaithersburg's vote to annex the site could "wreak serious, unnecessary, and perhaps permanent damage upon the relationship between their city and the City of Rockville,” Rockville City Councilman Tom Moore wrote in a blog post on Patch on Monday.
But Gaithersburg did it anyway.
“Isn’t this how superpowers go to war?” Rockville Councilman Mark Pierzchala asked. But it looks like there is a consensus for detente with the appointment of a task force to look into revising a 1992 memorandum of understanding between the cities.
Fun with Wigs and Big Shoes
Gaithersburg City Council members may have played it tough, but they know how to clown around. At the council chambers at City Hall Monday night, Mayor Sidney Katz declared Aug. 1-7 "International Clown Week" in the city, presenting a proclamation to representatives from Silver Spring's Kapitol Klowns.
"Issuing this proclamation will remind the citizens of Gaithersburg the importance of humor in our City and recognize the sense of wonder and laughter that clowns bring to our culture," the document read.
Even though the special week is over, you might still be able to spot a few clowns at city hall.
In More Serious News
--West Nile virus has been discovered for the first time this season in Montgomery County, according to the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Officials warn that you should protect yourself and your family from unnecessary exposure to mosquitoes. For tips on how to do that, go here.
--Montgomery County residents are jumping online to take advantage of digital voter registration. Maryland has become one of a handful of states to offer online voter registration to those with a valid drivers’ license or identification card. Click here to read Gov. Martin O’Malley’s blog post about the new registration tool.
--Ever dream of giving up your weed-infested lawn and leaky basement for the ease of apartment life? Montgomery County has 16 apartment projects set for construction by mid 2012, the highest of all Maryland suburbs, according to The Washington Post. According to The Post, during the economic downturn, the construction of multi-family projects decreased – but since last year, construction on these types of projects has begun to come back.
--Shopping can be serious, especially when there's an extra 6 percent discount courtesy of your government. It's tax-free shopping week in Maryland, so back-to-school bargain hunters will be hitting the stores before class begins Aug. 27. The incentive goes through Aug. 18. For a full list of what's covered, go here.
Friday's afternoon commute is the worst. If your own experience wasn't proof enough, a study by a traffic research firm for Governing.com shows it takes almost eight minutes longer than usual to get home on Fridays in the DC metro area. We rank as the ninth worst metro area for Friday afternoon delays of the 100 cities studied. Washington ranked just below Portland, OR, and just above Chicago. Los Angeles topped the list.
When you've got Discovery Communications in your county, you have to be a shameless promoter of Shark Week, which started Sunday, Aug. 12 on the Discovery Channel. You could celebrate by visiting Chompie, the giant shark sticking out of the Discovery building and "menacing" downtown Silver Spring. Or you could seek to even the score by taking a bite out of a shark -- at Georgetown Cupcake, located in Bethesda at 4834 Bethesda Ave., and in Georgetown, Washington, DC, at 3301 M St. NW. We're talking a delectable morsel with fluffy blue frosting and shark body parts.
Blogger Shout Out
The Max for Rockville blog points out that Montgomery County is cited in a study by the Pew Research Center as one of the many places in the United States where residential segregation by income has increased in the past three decades. The study shows that Rockville is at the bottom end of the spectrum, which the blog attributes to the shrinking middle class. "What it could mean for Rockville is that in the longterm, the types of city services and public amenities we’ve enjoyed may erode and disappear as the community’s ability to pay for them declines," according to Max.
One for the Mugshot Hall of Fame
Criminals with attitude must really set off the Montgomery County police. Police officials issued a press release in record time Thursday in an effort to make an example of a scofflaw they dubbed Jane, the cat burglar. Rather than be caught, Jane, they said, turned tail and tried to flee in a patrol car. Then, she clawed herself free and acted haughty once captured. She looked slightly scruffy but defiant in her (accompanying) mug shot.