The Montgomery County Agricultural Center, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) organization, founded in 1948 directly to serve youth; 4-H club members then did not have a fair to showcase their work in 4-H projects. A group of 15 4-H leaders explored the idea of organizing a fair and recruited other volunteers to help raise the money to purchase the land that became the Agricultural Center. Other volunteers organized materials and money to erect 12 barns using about 5,000 volunteers in a grand barn raising, and the first fair was held in 1949.
From that humble beginning, the Montgomery County Agricultural Fair has grown into the largest county fair in Maryland with 250,000 patrons attending to view more than 17,000 exhibits in a nine-day family oriented exhibition. In 2000, it received the honor of being voted “Best for Families” by the 250,000 readers of Washington Families magazine. The Fair still remains volunteer-based as well; last year there were 1,629 volunteers involved at the Agricultural Center, donating more than 28,000 hours of service to the Agricultural Center and the Fair. For more information on the Montgomery County Agricultural Fair click here.
About a decade ago, the Agricultural Center launched another program to serve severely handicapped/terminally ill children at the Fair. The VIP Children’s Day annually treats 30 to 35 honorees and their families to a free day at the Fair, starting with breakfast. The VIP children are given certificates of recognition, escorted around the Fair by 4-H hosts and hostesses, shown the many exhibits, given free rides in the carnival area, and given a nice duffel bag of free gifts to remember the day.
Also at the Annual County Fair, the Montgomery County Police sponsor DARE Day in honor of those 5th graders who have graduated from the Drug Resistance Education Program. Every child wearing a DARE graduation T-shirt is granted free admission to the Fair and has the chance to participate in free games and activities sponsored by the police at the Fair.
The Montgomery County Agricultural Center also has an ambitious scholarship program, funded from proceeds from the Fair and donations. Last year, $15,000 was awarded in amounts from $500 to $2,000 to youth advancing to college.
The Agricultural Center is also the host for the annual Montgomery County Safety Patrol Picnic where all of the county’s 10,000 safety patrols are treated to a fun day in honor of their work all year. The Montgomery County Agricultural Center has been a sponsor of the Governor’s Fishing Derby (get hooked on fishing, not drugs), and of “Close Encounters with Agriculture.” These programs involve thousands of youth annually; “Close Encounters” along involved 3,000 4th graders per year. The Fair is also a sponsor of the summer public library reading program which awards about 3,000 children annually for meeting summer reading goals.
The MCAC is a designated student service learning facility. Last year, 355 youth earned 5525 hours of service credits which are required for high school graduation in Maryland.