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Campus & Community

What It Takes: Maryland Day

UMD’s Biggest Event of the Year Is Back With Baby Farm Animals, Star Terp Athletes, Giveaways and Games Galore

By Karen Shih ’09

Man pulls cart across McKeldin Mall as part of Maryland Day setup

Workers have been setting up Maryland Day tents, tables, chairs and more since last Friday. This year's event will feature more than 300 booths; visitors can catch a show at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, scale the rock wall at Eppley Recreation Center or grab an autograph from a Terp basketball player.

Photo by Stephanie S. Cordle

Are you ready to take home a Testudo bobblehead, sample some Maryland Dairy ice cream and let a tarantula crawl up your arm this weekend? Maryland Day is back in person on Saturday with a full slate of events for families, prospective students, the entire University of Maryland community and beyond.

UMD’s biggest event started in 1999 and regularly draws more than 80,000 people to campus. This year’s version will feature more than 300 booths that feature family-friendly exhibits, entertainment and educational activities.

“Maryland Day is the highlight of my work here at the university,” said Cynthia Martinez, senior director of brand marketing at the Office of Marketing and Communications, who has led the campuswide effort since 2016. “Now that the world is opening back up, it’s a good feeling to allow folks to experience and see all the wonderful things our students, faculty and staff are doing.”

Martinez shares some of her favorite activities, the challenges of bringing the event back after a hiatus and how she coordinates more than 100 committee members during six months of planning and thousands of volunteers on the big day.

There’s Something for Everyone
That cliché is true on Maryland Day, Martinez said. “You can name a baby calf, which is great because Maryland Day grew out of Ag Day. The insect petting zoo is incredibly popular year after year. The football team will be on site, capping off spring practice.” She said the variety of events—performances, exhibitions, demonstrations, tours and giveaways—draw attendees from not just a 30-mile radius of College Park, but also from New Jersey, Connecticut and Delaware. And after two years of COVID canceling or pushing Maryland Day online, many students have never experienced a Maryland Day, Martinez said, “so we want to engage with them as well.”

Mapping Out a Massive Maze
Figuring out how to arrange hundreds of events starts in February, when units have to submit descriptions to Martinez’s office. “That helps us understand what campus is going to look like in terms of tents, tables and chairs, and how many volunteers are required—we’ll have 7,600 this year,” she said. Events are divvied up into five neighborhoods: Terp Town Center, AG Day Avenue, Art & Design Place, Science & Tech Way and Sports & Rec Row.

With the pandemic still ongoing, most of this year’s events are outdoors, and a searchable Maryland Day app makes it easy to find activities to suit any interest.

Steady Set-up, Quick Break-down
Surrounded by campus maps and volunteer lunch vouchers and UMD swag in her office, Martinez spent the last week fielding calls from vendors and visitors (“Are dogs allowed?” Yes, as long as people clean up after them) and doing daily checks of the set-up in progress. White tents with red flags started going up on McKeldin Mall and other green spaces more than a week before Maryland Day.

“Outside my office right now, the Facilities Management special events team is moving a lot of boxes all over campus, including T-shirts and other marketing materials and special goodies we’re giving away at Terp Town Center, where we’ll debut Fearlessly Forward, the new UMD brand,” she said. But while set-up takes more time, all tents and equipment should be gone by Sunday morning, less than 24 hours after the big day ends. “We know a lot of graduating students want to do photo shoots on the Mall.”

A Team Effort
Tomorrow, Martinez will get to campus just after sunrise to oversee final preparations. “I spend a lot of the day circling campus in a golf cart, visiting each neighborhood,” she said.

She’ll also pop in and out of the command center, headed by Lisa Press of Conferences and Visitor Services. It’s based in Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer Carlo Colella’s office, which has “a beautiful view of McKeldin Mall so the team can see everything that’s going on!”

She’s quick to give credit to all the people who pitch in to make Maryland Day happen each year. “While I lead this effort, it really is a team effort,” she said. “I feel really fortunate to work with so many talented and passionate people at this university.”

This is part of a monthly series that looks behind the scenes at “what it takes” to keep the University of Maryland humming and create a vibrant campus experience. Got an idea for a future installment? Email

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Maryland Today is produced by the Office of Marketing and Communications for the University of Maryland community on weekdays during the academic year, except for university holidays.