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The Arlington County Fair Harkens Back To Quainter Days

County Fairs harken back to a quainter time in our country’s history. Events like vegetable-growing, pie-eating and pig-catching contests all seem out of place in the hustle and bustle of the 21st century.

And the last place you’d expect to see one of these traditions reviewed is in our teeming metropolis.

But this weekend, on the outskirts of Washington, D.C. a big, the Arlington County Fair kicks off, with all the trappings you’d expect, from funnel cakes to Tilt-a-Whirls to pony rides.

Straddling the divide between North and South Arlington, about a quarter-mile from the intersection of Route 50 and Glebe Road, resides the Thomas Jefferson Community Center. Typically, the Arlington County Fair is a place for local residents to gather and play soccer, basketball, tennis or work out. But over the past week, the grounds, which span almost an acre, have been transformed into the carnival of everyone’s childhood.

It’s the annual Arlington County Fair, and it’s bright and colorful, neon pink and green, and it conjures nostalgia at every turn. At one side of the carnival is a 30-foot high plastic slide.

Adults and kids alike can hop on burlap sacks and cruise down the wavy ramp to the bottom. On the other side of the festival is the mainstay of all great carnivals, a giant Ferris Wheel. It will slowly take riders all the way to the top, which gives them expansive views of the fairgrounds below.

Almost every ride you can think of from your childhood is here, with a carousel for children, a drop tower for the brave, and several different seriously spinning options, for fairgoers who have the strongest of stomachs.

Arlington County Fair ride
Arlington County Fair ride

For younger visitors, there’s a mini-roller coaster, as well as a large pool of water, where kids can hop into giant inflatable balls and bob about, skimming across the surface and crashing into each other.

Alongside all the rides at the Arlington County Fair are the usual carnival games, with workers hollering at passersby to come and test their skills. Of course there’s a strength game, where participants swing a sledgehammer, but there’s also ring toss and darts. Prizes are some of the largest stuffed animals you’ve ever seen.

For the real animal-inclined, pony rides are offered all day, and there’s also racing piglets, who squirm down a track every 90 minutes. All throughout the fair, typical carnival food is sold, from corn dogs to cotton candy. There’s also some cuisine from different cultures, with local Thai restaurants serving tastes, as well as El Salvadorian offerings.

The outdoor grounds are open on Friday and Saturday night until 11:00 p.m., and Sunday  until 10 p.m. After dusk on Friday and Saturday, a movie will be screened on the fairgrounds. Guests can place down a blanket and relax and look up. Although the films have yet to be named, Saturday’s is promised to be a teen-friendly flick.

To go along with the outdoor fair, there’s also a range of booths inside the Thomas Jefferson Community Center. These cover a wide range, from people offering Henna tattoos to local artists selling jewelry and artwork.

The indoor elements of the Arlington County Fair run from 4 p.m. – 10 p.m. on Friday, 10 a.m. – 9 p.m. on Saturday and 11 a.m. – 7 p.m. on Sunday.

Because there is limited parking at the community center, shuttles run every half-hour from the Ballston Metro and the Arlington Career Center. Parking there is free.

There’s absolutely no charge to attend the carnival,  though rides and games cost money.   So this weekend, head down to the Thomas Jefferson Community Center in Arlington and experience one of America’s favorite past times.

– David



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