By LINDA CHION KENNEY
The Florida State Fair opened with the time-honored tradition of a Fresh From Florida Breakfast on Feb. 6, in the Florida Agricultural Hall of Fame building, where Nicole “Nikki” Fried addressed attendees as Florida’s 12th Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
The aim for our “next generation is to love agriculture as much as your parents and grandparents and great-grandparents have,” Fried said, noting the state has 47,000 working farms and 2 million individuals involved in agriculture statewide, making agriculture the state’s “second-largest economic driver.” Fried encouraged attendees to visit the fair often because “one trip alone is not going to do it justice.”
Toward that end, the Florida State Fair continues its 12-day run through Monday, Feb. 17, with events and promotions that make this annual event a cost-friendly consideration as well.
College Night is Thursday, Feb. 13, allowing students with a valid college or university ID to get in free after 5 p.m., .
Also, Feb. 13 is the last of four Senioriffic days, featuring discounted admission and senior-focused programming for guests ages 55 and up.
New this year, the Fair Foodie Crawl on Feb. 13 starts at 5 p.m., allowing guests to choose samples from a pre-paid menu of vendors.
Celebrate Valentine’s Day on Friday, Feb. 14, with a $10 admission-for-two, Date Night Deal, starting at 5 p.m.
Ready to work off those new fair food offerings, including Deep-Fried Strawberry Lemonade Shortcake Sundae, Cheesy Tater Corn Dog, Cajun Chile Cheese Fries and Peanut Butter Ramen Burger? Consider the Deep Fried Dash 5K and Fun Run, new this year and set for Saturday, Feb. 15, with a course that runs through the midway, down the mall through outdoor vendors, through the agricultural side by livestock barns and arenas, and ends at one of four entertainment centers. Finishers receive a dry-fit T-shirt and race medal, and proceeds benefit the Florida State Fair Foundation. The cost is $40 for the 5K; $30 for the Fun Run.
Fair Cares for the Hungry Day is Monday, Feb. 17, sponsored by Publix and Feeding Tampa Bay. Donate two or more nonperishable food items from Publix at the gate by 6 p.m. and receive $5 fair admission.
Student Day, for youth in Hardee, Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk and other surrounding counties, is also on Feb. 17. Get in free with a student I.D. or report card at the gate; after 6 p.m., adults over age 21, with a government-issued ID, must accompany students for admittance.
For more events details, visit www.FloridaStateFair.com. The Florida State Fairgrounds is in Tampa, at 4800 U.S. 301.