By LINDA CHION KENNEY
Set to kick off Sept. 23 is the 11-day Hillsborough County Fair at the Hillsborough County Fairgrounds in Dover.
Safety protocols related to the coronavirus pandemic reportedly include signs that will remind attendees to social distance and hand-sanitizer stations that are to be placed throughout the fairgrounds. While complementary masks are to be available for those who do not have one, there are no plans to mandate wearing them.
Billed as a “celebration of community, agriculture, education and exhibits,” this year’s fair theme is, “From Wagon Wheels to Ferris Wheels.” The fairgrounds are at 215 Sydney Washer Road, at the intersection of State Road 60 and Sydney Washer Road, just east of Brandon.
Tickets are on sale now, with special advance sale prices through Sept. 16. While the fair is open Sept. 23 through Oct. 3, carnival and fair food only are available Sept. 27-29.
Kicking off the fair, this year’s annual Harvest Awards are to be presented Sept. 23 to four individuals and to the Glen and Frances Williamson Family, for Farm Family of the Year. The SouthShore Chamber of Commerce is set to receive the Outstanding Public and Community Service Award.
Established by the UF/IFAS Hillsborough County Extension Service 20 years ago, the Harvest Awards aim “to celebrate those outstanding pioneers in agriculture in the farming community and to preserve the agricultural heritage of Hillsborough County.”
This year’s individual recipients include Matt Parke, as Outstanding Young Farmer; Debbie Gill, as Outstanding Woman in Agriculture; and Jemy Hinton, recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award.
Rounding out the awards is a posthumous tribute to Earl Lennard, a Riverview native and former president of the Hillsborough County Fair Board of Directors, recognized “for his leadership in agriculture and the community.”
A graduate of Brandon High School and a member of the University of South Florida’s inaugural class, Lennard entered the Hillsborough County school district as a first-grader at Palm River Elementary and left almost 60 years later as its superintendent of schools, a position he held from 1996 to 2005. A history major, Lennard taught at both elementary and high school levels, and as a Gleaners Sunday School teacher at Riverview United Methodist Church.
One of nine siblings, Lennard worked on his family’s farm and tended to the details of its roadside vegetable stand. He held also the positions of deputy superintendent and assistant superintendent, for both administration and for vocational, technical and adult and community education. In 2009, Gov. Charlie Christ appointed Lennard Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections to replace Phyllis Busansky, who had died unexpectedly. He served the remainder of her term and ran unopposed for his own four-year term.
Last year’s fair and awards ceremony were cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. Lennard, the namesake of the high school in Ruskin, died Dec. 23, 2019, after a prolonged illness since Thanksgiving 2018. He was 77.
Along with midway rides and fair food, the Hillsborough County Fair includes a pumpkin-carving contest Oct. 3 and pageants for senior and junior Harvest Queen on Sept. 11. Also among the scheduled activities are a rodeo (Sept. 24-25), demolition derby (Oct. 3) and truck and tractor pull (Oct. 1-2).
New this year are the first annual Battle of the Beef Cook-Off, sponsored by Hillsborough County CattleWomen, set for Sept. 26, and the first annual Enriching the Environment Rain Barrel Decorating Contest, sponsored by the Hillsborough County Soil and Water Conservation District.
Also, the HSWCD, in cooperation with local nurserymen, is set to present its fifth annual Great Plant Auction, scheduled to start 2 p.m. Oct. 3, featuring high-quality plant materials at reasonable prices, grown and donated by local nurseries. Proceeds benefit HSWCD youth programs, Hillsborough 100 Conservation Challenge and agricultural college scholarships.
Available for auction and for a preview at noon are annuals, perennials, landscape and butterfly plants, ferns, bushes and tree and plant nutrition items.
For more on the fair, including the Hillsborough Harvest Idol Contest, family living and visual arts exhibits and competitions, entertainment and shows, youth livestock exhibitor schedule and special days, hours and admission fees, visit www.HillsboroughCountyFair.com/.