Longest-running Maryland fair cancels 2024 event, citing lack of volunteers

The fair that bills itself as the longest-running in Maryland is taking a break in 2024.

Organizers of the Prince George’s County Fair say they don’t have enough volunteers to make this year happen.

The Big Glen Burnie Fair made a similar announcement in May.

"It was to the point where you’re getting older, I’m getting older, it was getting a little bit harder for us to be out there lifting 60-pound pens and raising up a big food tent that takes on an average … a good 20–25 people," said Debbie Herbert, the president of the Prince George’s County Fair.

Herbert said she made several outreach attempts but only mustered up 8–10 volunteers when she needed between three and five times that.

"We’re not getting any younger," Herbert said.

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Longest-running Maryland fair cancels 2024 event, citing lack of volunteers

She acknowledges the job is laborious: early mornings, late nights, heavy lifting, and it’s the week after Labor Day when many kids are getting back to school. But in previous years, they’ve been able to make it work, which was not the case this year.

"You can’t get the help. I am just seeing that everywhere," Herbert said.

Despite the name, the fair gets very little financial assistance from Prince George’s County and relies on gate receipts, vendor fees, and a percentage of the carnival for revenue. 

Herbert says they’re not in a financial position to pay workers.

Amanda Wisley runs Bubbles Productions and used to be the main vendor for face painting and balloon animals for the fair. She loved the fair, came as a child, and was sad to see the cancellation.

"I was shocked," Wisley said. "I was looking to get the application for this year and I hadn’t heard anything for this year, so when I inquired, I didn’t hear anything back right away. And finally, I got a response back that ‘Hey, it doesn’t look like we have the manpower."

For now, Herbert says the plan is to gear up for a 2025 return.

"We’re rebuilding. In our re-build section, I have like, I said, I have emails from people now that have been coming in. We’re going to have a big Zoom lesson, so that they all know what’s going on with this, and yes, we’re adamant that in 2025 we’ll be back," Herbert said.