Frederick Fair Day–Keep It or Dispose of All Days Off of School

Over the weekend, the 145th Great Frederick Fair kicked off for 8 days of celebration that is Frederick County. I am not a native of Frederick County, but my wife is and I have come to call Frederick my home. There is much to love about Frederick and there are three big public events that I believe help define Frederick, MD. First is 4th of July celebrations in Baker Park, which to me is the definition of a mid-sized city 4th Celebration. When friends or family are in town, we don’t go down the road to Washington, DC, we go to Frederick’s Baker Park. The next is In the Streets, a weekend in October where the downtown area of Frederick is closed to most car traffic and people walk around and enjoy the downtown of Frederick. Finally, there is the Great Frederick Fair. Having grown up in the Jacksonville, Florida area, we had similar events, but there is something different about the Great Frederick Fair.

Of course, anything great these days can’t come without some controversy. Now it seems that a group of parents object to the tradition of Fair Day, the day of the week where all Frederick County public school students get the day off from school, obstensibly to attend the fair. Some parents object to the disruption of Fair day, claiming:

‘‘I’ve had children in this school system for 15 years and I could never see the point of Fair Day,” said Holcomb, parent of three Frederick County Public Schools students and one Urbana High School graduate. ‘‘I would rather my children be in school. I would understand if all Frederick County students went to the fair on Friday, but they don’t.”

The decades-old Fair Day tradition is a topic that can divide Frederick County residents like no other.

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Some, like Holcomb, say Fair Day no longer serves its original purpose. They see it as another disruption to the school schedule. September does not include a single uninterrupted week of classes.

Fair Day supporters say it teaches children about the agricultural tradition of Frederick County.

Becky Brashear, executive assistant at The Great Frederick Fair, said there is no way for fair officials to estimate the number of students who visit the fair on Fair Day every year. She expects thousands of students to show up this year.

I see the objection to Fair Day as yet another disruption in the school calendar and yes, September does not have a single full week of instruction, but do you know what the other days are? Here are the days off as published by the Frederick County Public Schools for the first six weeks of school:

  • August 27–First Day of School
  • September 3–Labor Day
  • September 13–Schools Closed (although not mentioned this is Rosh Hashana)
  • September 21–Fair Day
  • September 28–Midterm ends–schools out two hours early for a Teacher Work Session.

I fail to see how Fair Day is a disruption to the school calendar and Rosh Hashana or a two hour early dismissal is not a disruption. Furthermore, in October, there is a two hour early dismissal for a teacher work session, two consecutive days of schools opening four hours late for parent teacher conference time, then, the very next week, schools close one day three and a half hours early and then being closed completely the next day. These are not disruptions?

While lower Frederick county is not what most people would consider rural, the vast majority of the county is rural and 4-H and Future Farmers of America are still very large constituencies in the county. If Fair Day has lost its educational value (if it really ever had one), then why don’t the schools assign some work to be completed as a result of the fair. Then the complaint of having no educational value is trumped.

In a time when some of the same people who decry Fair Day also bemoan the loss of American agriculture, its seems the height of hypocrisy to complain about a day when kids can go to the Fair. If disrpution to the school calendar is the issue, there is a solution. Have no holidays except for Federal or State government holidays–this includes no closure for Rosh Hashana or any other religious holiday of any kind. Have a winter break that extends from Christmas to New Year’s Day, and a one week Spring Break. That is all. Of course, such a schedule disrupts parental desires for days off for religious reasons and impacts the union work rules for teachers and other staff–causing an expensive renegotiation.

Until and unless parents are will to support such a schedule, then Fair Day should remain intact–there are some traditions that in the end are harmless at worst. Fair Day used to puzzle me as well, but why do we have to trash every tradition just because some parents object to having to find day care for their kids.

Cross posted at Going to the Mat

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