State fair opens today: Government agencies hope to combine entertainment and learning

HARRINGTON — The Delaware State Fair has no shortage of entertainment. From concerts to carnival games to exhibits, the fair is designed to thrill and delight.

But there’s more to it than just fun.

The fair is also a celebration of Delaware’s agriculture — an $8 billion industry, according to a University of Delaware study.

The Department of Agriculture and the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, two mainstays at the event, are hoping to combine entertainment with education to spread messages about recycling, farming and more.

The two agencies are running exhibits with videos, cooking demonstrations, games and a host of learning opportunities.

DNREC’s building features several model rooms, with signs and props offering tips on helping the environment. Turning lights off and unplugging electronics when not in use, for instance, is not only good for the Earth but also saves money, according to the signs.

Workers carry colorful panels near the ferris wheel at the Delaware State Fair in Harrington on Wednesday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Other setups in the building urge visitors to be mindful of how many plastic bags and water bottles they use in a year. A family of four uses around 1,000 bags in a year. Many of those bags simply end up in a landfill, where they are very slow to degrade.

Across the room, a new exhibit from the Division of Watershed Stewardship offers information on the state’s waterways, including the creatures that live and how to prevent runoff.

There are educational games as well, offering children a chance to have fun while — DNREC hopes — learning. Visitors can use Legos to slow water flow, for example.

“We don’t want to just hand something and they take it outside and throw it in the trash,” DNREC spokeswoman Carol Riggs said. “We want them to participate. You learn more if you participate.”

Those who visit the building can win prizes by answering questions in a booklet. The answers can be found throughout the room, requiring participants to wander around and examine the different exhibits.

Wiliam Gerland cleans the floor at the Alpine Bobs ride at the Delaware State Fair in Harrington on Wednesday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Throughout the fair, the agency will host shows and demonstrations, which will include animals.

Visitors can decorate a rain barrel too, with the best design being selected next week.

Next door, the Department of Agriculture’s building features tables manned by various organizations, such as the Christmas Tree Growers’ Association, Pork Producers Association and Delmarva Poultry Industry.

Cooking demonstrations teach visitors how to utilize homegrown foods in their recipes, while individuals wishing to learn about farming can do just that with a farming simulator video game.

“They’ll learn anything from nutrient management and how to spread manure on a field to planting the crops and harvesting them and what it takes … to really take and implement and not run into things or not jackknife your equipment,” department spokeswoman Stacey Hoffman said. “But it also teaches finance. Farming is not a cheap thing.”

Officials are hopeful attendees can have fun and take away lessons about the environment.

The buildings are located near the ice rink by gate three — and yes, they have air conditioning.

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