Currently viewing the tag: "Playground Specialists"

Terry Pryor

It isn’t easy preparing for the life of a Royal. It’s downright cumbersome when you are a rather large frog who sits by the side of a busy highway, waiting for kisses. And how many kisses does it take to transform a frog into a Prince? We are still waiting to find out, it seems.

Kissimmee (pictured right) is his name, and for three-plus years, he has been a focal point for commuters and travelers on U.S. Highway 15, just south of Thurmont. No matter the rain, snow, sunshine, or any weather in-between, nothing has deterred him from his purpose: to be a Prince!

Kissimmee’s previous line of work was in a playground, where children climbed on his back, chased each other around his big old gold and green plastic body, and would-be princesses posed for pictures smooching his big lips. It was an okay gig, but Kissimmee knew he was born for greater things.

One day (or once upon a time), Jeff and Reggie Barber, father and son and owners of Playground Specialists Inc. (a family business in Thurmont that serves Maryland, Washington D.C., Virginia, and West Virginia), were out assessing a new playground site. Guess who lived there?

Reggie, the elder Barber, a self-proclaimed Purveyor of Nonsense, took it upon himself to adopt Kissimmee and share him with the world that traveled down route 15. The placement of Kissimmee changes daily, as Reggie pulls him up and down the side road next to the highway. It’s a game played by who knows how many to guess where he will show up next.

“There’s no rhyme or reason to where I put him,” Reggie explained. “It’s all about having fun.”

For the most part, smiles are unseen, but in those speeding trucks, cars, and motorcycles barreling down the highway to their destinations, you can bet that smiles often last for miles.

Reggie has received cards, letters, and notes—sometimes stuck on our Prince-to-be—all proclaiming their love for him. And, yes, there are also those who stop to plant a nice big kiss on our stalwart amphibian. One commuter, recently retired, sent a note commenting on how much he enjoyed wondering where Kissimmee would be moved each day and how much fun seeing him made his commute a pleasure over the years.

People have also stopped to “decorate” Kissimmee. For some reason (perhaps his color), St. Patrick’s Day is a biggie. Reggie is never sure who might show up or when, but people of all ages have stopped to let their kids (and inner kids) out to play.

Before Kissimmee came to live by the side of the road, a purple dinosaur could be seen counting cars, or whatever dinosaurs do. According to Reggie, “He kept traveling. Once, he returned, but then took off again.”

No one has yet tried to make off with Kissimmee. His size is a deterrent; and, just in case you get any ideas, his best friend is a Wizard, so be careful of lightning bolts.

I’m not sure about the Prince thing. They have always been overrated to me. I also would not want that last kiss, whatever number it is, to be the reason we never see Kissimmee again sitting somewhere by the side of the road, watching the world go by.

Like everyone else whose Thurmont history contains memories of Albert and Beulah Zentz and their family, we have all wondered what would happen to the old barn.

I am delighted to share the word that it will not be demolished. Doug, from Playground Specialists Inc., was quite thrilled to impart this information, as he, too, has his childhood memories of the farm. The Zentz home, as well as the summer kitchen and garage, will also be left undisturbed.

Deb Abraham Spalding

While traveling, Jeff Barber, owner of Playground Specialists, Inc. in Thurmont, encountered an ice and water dispensary kiosk called Twice The Ice. He thought the concept would fit perfectly on the slice of ground he owned at the former drive-through bank location on the corner of Apples Church Road and East Main Street in Thurmont.

 In September of 2019, the Twice The Ice kiosk opened for public vending at that location in Thurmont. It is an entirely self-contained vending unit that filters water four different times, including a cycle of reverse osmosis (a process that removes lead in the water). Upon demand, it dispenses the purified water into your container varying in size from a 20-ounce sports bottle (25¢), a gallon (50¢), three-gallons ($1.00), and five-gallon ($2.00) cooler.

It also uses that purified water to make and bag its own ice within the sanitary unit on demand. Your made-to-order ice bag (10- or 20-pound bags) slides down a shoot for easy pickup. Tie the bag, and you’re good to go! The ice is freshly cubed in the customary small cubed shape, just like other bagged ice.

If freshness isn’t enough to make you run to the Twice The Ice kiosk, the cost will be. Twice The Ice is about half the price of bagged ice and bottled water purchased elsewhere.

This kiosk serves the entire community! Little leaguers, in-home users, construction workers, and travelers will find value in this fresh, clean water option.

Step right up! Twice The Ice takes credit cards (for ice purchases only), coins, and cash.

For more information, visit

Jeff Barber uses the Twice The Ice kiosk to fill water dispensers for staff.

Anita DiGregory

On Monday, February 27, 2017,  Maryland and town of Thurmont officials proudly welcomed Playground Specialists, Inc., to the community with a grand opening celebration which included an official ribbon-cutting ceremony.  Playground Specialists, Inc., a full-service recreation company owned and operated by Jeff Barber, is a dynamic company, specializing in assisting clients with all commercial park and playground needs, including sales, design, and installation. At the welcome ceremony, many local leaders were on hand, including Frederick County Office of Economic Development Director Helen Propheter, Frederick County Council President Bud Otis, Frederick County Executive Jan Gardner, Frederick County Councilman Kirby Delauter, Thurmont Mayor John Kinnaird, Thurmont Commissioner Bill Buehrer, Thurmont Public Works Department Superintendent Butch West, and Thurmont Chief Administrative Officer Jim Humerick. All in attendance were happy to welcome this thriving company, and Barber and his staff, into their new headquarters on Apples Church Road.

Although Maryland Governor Larry Hogan was not in attendance at the ceremony, he stated, “Ensuring hard-working citizens in every region of the state have access to new job opportunities is a top priority of our administration. Playground Specialists is a homegrown company, and it is welcome news that they are continuing to grow and add jobs right here in Maryland.”

Frederick County Executive Jan Gardner remarked, “I am delighted that Playground Specialists is growing in Frederick County. We are proud that a local company has become a major supplier in the Mid-Atlantic, and continues to add jobs for our workforce.”

Founded by Barber in 1998, Playground Specialists, Inc. has continued to grow to become one of the largest outdoor recreational furniture distributors on the East Coast. Barber began installing commercial playgrounds in 1994.  Originally employing only himself and one other installer, Barber’s staff has flourished to more than thirty employees, and he hopes to be adding more in the future.  Playground Specialists, Inc. currently serves Maryland, Washington D.C., Virginia, West Virginia, and Kentucky.

With regards to the company’s recent expansion, Maryland Commerce Secretary Mike Gill stated, “The fact that Playground Specialists is continuing to expand its service area, and will more than double its sales, shows its tremendous potential for growth.  Playground Specialists is one of many small businesses that are choosing to expand in Maryland, and we are pleased to work with our county partners to ensure these companies remain in the state.”

At one time run from home, the company headquarters is now housed in a spacious and innovative 21,000-square-foot facility in Thurmont. In addition to accommodating a vast warehouse and offices, the newly constructed facility also houses a conference room and large training space to host presentation and training seminars. The company has more than twelve certified playground safety inspectors, an in-house design team, sales support staff, and three full-time installation crews.

With the motto “We work hard, so you can play,” Barber and his staff take pride in designing recreational areas and installing equipment to meet the needs of the community, while providing a safe, fun place to visit and play.

Working with local governments, schools, churches, recreation departments, homeowner associations, and more, Playground Specialists, Inc., has become a leader in the industry. Handling everything from start to finish in-house, the company provides state-of-the-art recreational elements, including surfacing, playground equipment, and site amenities, such as shade structures, pavilions, benches, and trash receptacles.

In Thurmont, Playground Specialists, Inc. is responsible for the 2016 Thurmont Elementary School playground, and is currently completing the East End Park Inclusive Playground. With two inclusive play specialists on staff, the company has worked with the town and the Catoctin Area Civitan Club to design and install this unique playground for children with all abilities. Features of the park include full wheelchair access, innovative structures for children of all abilities and challenges, rubber surfacing, and a shaded canopy. With the first phase nearly complete, two additional phases to the park are in the works. Playground Specialists, Inc. is very happy to play such an integral role in this innovative park, one of the first fully inclusive playgrounds in the area, and even donated two fundamental pieces to the project.

Family owned and operated, Playground Specialists, Inc. is proud to be a member of the vibrant Thurmont community. With many employees born and raised locally, the company is happy to provide jobs and support the community.  Marketing and Design Manager Amanda McGuire added, “We love Thurmont. We love to work here, live here, and give back to the community. People are like family around here.”