UPPER MARLBORO – The Prince George’s County Fair is set to return to The Showplace Arena this Thursday – a year after a double-booking pushed them from the site.
On Thursday, the annual Prince George’s County fair will celebrate its 175th year and Debbie Herbert, the fair’s president, said they’re going to go as big as they can with the celebration.
The county fair started in 1842 and is the longest running fair in the state. What started as a small local gathering to show off produce and livestock has now turned into a four-day event full of rides, entertainment, competition and fun.
This year, according to the fair’s website, competition will be held in a wide variety of categories including jams and jellies, quilts, photography, basket making, flower arranging, handcrafts and more – a far cry from the fair’s humble beginnings.
“We’re doing as much as we can in the 175th year,” Herbert said.
Herbert said it takes the entire year to put the fair together and they start planning the next one the day after it ends. Everything from marketing to booking the bands and rides takes time and effort to put together, but despite the workload Herbert said the fair is worth it.
“It’s good for the community. I think the community needs something where they can gather together,” she said. “I say the community, but it is really for the county. It’s good for the kids that are growing up to learn about the agricultural part of it (too).
“It’s just a fun time. It’s just a nice family time. It’s a tradition.”
Along with the typical fair attractions, the Prince George’s County Fair has created a few traditions of its own.
Some of those traditions include a NASCAR simulator and pulling in local talent for the entertainment, but one tradition special to Herbert happens on the second day of the fair.
On Friday, nearly 2,000 students from Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) will be welcomed through the fair’s gates as the special education office has teamed up with the fair to provide the opportunity to students with special needs.
“My favorite part of the whole fair is the special kids day we have on Friday morning. We open the door up from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. for them. They bring in bus loads of kids,” Herbert said. “We have the rides for them and some of the food vendors open up. Park and Planning has their fun factory and – right now talking about it, I just got chills.”
Herbert said opening the fair early for the special education students is great opportunity for the children to get hands-on experience with farm animals, ride the carnival rides and play games.
“It’s just so awesome because these are kids that would never, ever get to go to a fair or a carnival and the school takes care of them, gets them there and we get to help,” she said.
And the school system agreed.
Trinell Bowman, the executive director of the special education office at PGCPS, said the fair has become an annual tradition that students look forward to each year.
“The Prince George's County Fair is an event that has become an annual tradition and one that is anticipated by students and staff each and every year," Bowman said. "It is a wonderful way for our students with disabilities to experience all the fair has to offer and more.”
And for the school system, bussing nearly 2,000 students and staff on 78 busses, from more than 40 schools, to the fair is about more than just rides and fun. It’s also educational.
“By providing this access, students are provided an opportunity to enhance academic, communication, socialization and motor skills in a community setting. Many of our students would not have the opportunity to experience the fair if it was not for the gracious invitation from the fair association,” Bowman said.
Herbert said the whole morning is “very, very exciting” and said she is ecstatic to welcome the students back, since last year the fair was at Rosecroft Raceway and was too far for the school system to bus the students. She said, now that the fair is back at Showplace, the school system is “already booked and ready to go.”
“It is always rewarding to see the smiles on our students’ faces as they board the buses back to school. I am not sure who enjoys the day more, our students or the many fair association volunteers,” Bowman said. “It is just a great day for all and we truly value our relationship with the fair association."
The fair starts on Thursday and Herbert encourages the entire county to come out for the event. To see the entire lineup of entertainment and events check out the fair schedule here: http://bit.ly/2c4f6z2.