Where can you throw a cow chip, catch some clogging, swing to the rhythm of Hank Ballard & the Midnighters, or rock and roll with the Fabulous Hubcaps?

At the Prince George's County Fair at the Equestrian Center in Upper Marlboro.

Starting Monday, rain or shine, and running through Sept. 9, much as it has since 1842, Maryland's oldest fair will offer good, old-fashioned fun that is likely to convert even the most diehard city slicker into the real McCoy.

"With all the things going on in the world," said fair manager Richard Scott, "like Iraq and all the layoffs, a fair is a nice escape. Bring your family and leave your troubles behind."

For a group whose problems can't be quite so easily forgotten, the fair is offering a special day.

At 9:30 a.m. on Sept. 7, the carnival gates will swing open exclusively for about 1,500 disabled children from Prince George's County special education centers. Until 2:30 p.m., the children will be offered free rides, lunch, entertainment and visits with their favorite farm animals.

"It's a social experience," Scott said. "Less than 20 years ago, a lot of handicapped children were kept in closets. Teachers will tell you that social contact is very important."

Fair officials expect about 150,000 people to participate throughout the week, an increase of about 10,000 from last year's record. Turnout depends on the weather, and officials are hoping for sunny skies.

"Our county is a very urban area," Scott said. "We must appeal to many types of people and different ethnic backgrounds, so we try to present a variety of exhibits and 'ground acts,' including magicians and clowns -- those pull them right in."

About 1,000 people will show, regardless of the forecast, for competition in 4-H and open classes, or agriculture contests, displaying pies, afghans and steers in almost 2,000 exhibits. Among the many prizes are those for the biggest pumpkin, biggest watermelon and best-looking tobacco.

"Many people will be competing," Scott said. "It should be a unique experience for urban people. We've seen a real increase in participation in agricultural and livestock areas. That's why the fair exists. The whole purpose is to highlight the agriculture and livestock aspects of our community. The rest is show biz."

In the 4-H competitions, Keith Fulton, 14, of College Park, plans to show his model rockets, rabbits and a wooden doll bench he made. Five years of experience have shown him the ropes.

Keith said that it's a good experience to work on projects and help out the leaders, but that the real fun is getting to know the other youngsters. "I think the best part is that all the people in the county are there," he said. "We all get together and have a good time."

Highlights include a pie-eating contest, judged on the number of slices eaten in two minutes; a jousting exhibition; a scarecrow workshop; and the popular "beautiful baby contest," which had to set an entry deadline in early August because of the more than 400 entries.

Animal-related activities include a 4-H petting farm, a horse-pull contest and "open class swine."

"Primarily, we get young families bringing the kids out to see the animals," Scott said. "Lots of kids never see them, and it's one of the few exposures they get. They usually see asphalt, cars and MTV. I say, little Adam, there is a whole 'nother world out there. We try to expose them to that."

Admission for the fair is $5 for adults, $4 for senior citizens. Children 12 and younger get in free.