Military Day at Montgomery County Agricultural Fair honors members of U.S. military -- Gazette.Net


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One fairgoer wore a white T-shirt that said “Marine Mom” and listed her three sons in the Marine Corps on an ID tag Thursday at the Montgomery County Agricultural Fair.

Maureen Nelson’s sons were deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan at various times with the Marine Corps. She attended the fair’s 65th year on August 15 -- Military Day.

This was the third year active duty military personnel in uniform or with a valid military ID were allowed to enter the fair for free -- 618 members of the military took advantage of the opportunity, according to fair officials.

While Nelson, from Sterling, Va., did not enter the fair for free, her sons would have. They live in Leesburg, Va., South Riding, Va. and her youngest son, Benjamin Nelson, 26, lives at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point in Cherry Point, N.C.

“I was visiting my mother and father in Bethesda and we knew we wanted to come to the fair,” Nelson said. “I thought it was a good day to go because they were honoring our troops and I like to support that as well.

Several food and game stations offered special discounts for members of the military.

During the day, Patty Alexander’s Popcorn in Paradise booth offered a $1 off each purchase deal for members of the military. They sell original and caramel kettle corn.

“We did the same thing last year,” said Patty Alexander, from Cumberland, the owner and operator of the popcorn store. “We try to match the days of the fair, such as seniors day.”

Eric Benoit, from Tennessee, who operates a balloon popping game at the fair, tries to offer members of the military special deals on the game.

“If I recognize their cut and mannerisms I’m happy to give them a special discount,” Benoit said. “If they get one prize, I give the second prize half price.”

There were several announcements on the loudspeaker throughout the day, thanking military personnel and welcoming them to the fair.

A fire truck had a raised American flag at the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service information booth, where fairgoers could pick up free plastic fire hats and informational pamphlets.

“We’re always looking to hire veterans,” said Leslie Maxam, the recruiting section manager for the fire and rescue service. “We’ve realized returning military are a good fit for us. We have an environment they fit in well with.”

“Our hierarchy and terminology is similar to the military,” said Capt. Brent Hopkins with the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service.

Last year more military members attended the fair after 5 p.m., when the deal for them to enter free ended.

“People were upset and trying to rush to get here,” said Julie McDonald, who works at the ticket sales booths. “A lot of them had to work until then.”

This year the hours for military personnel to enter the fair for free were extended to midnight.

“From the feedback we’ve received, it made a huge difference,” said Martin Svrcek, the executive director of the Montgomery County Agricultural Fair.

mchertock@gazette.net