By LINDA CHION KENNEY
It’s that time of the year again, when good intentions fly by the wayside as fair food beckons with yet again another round of unusual decadent offerings.
The Florida State Fair opens Thursday, Feb. 10 for its 12-day run at the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa. The fair’s closing day is Monday, Feb. 21, and this year’s theme is, “Find Your Fun.”
Come hungry if you want to fill up on unique fried-food offerings, such as Deep Fried Banana Pudding and Deep Fried Fruit Kabobs, from DeAnna’s Steak Sundaes and Cinnamon City, respectively. Mobile Deserts & Foods enters the mix as well, with its Pineapple Stir-Fried Rice Bowls, while Chester’s Gators & Taters brings to the fair its Loaded Fried Pickle Nachos.
Come half-satiated if you don’t want to overdo it, because diet and health concerns come into play when you’re mulling over the rich desserts, such as Shockley’s Twister S’mores and The Apple Cart’s Bacon Caramel Apples. Throw into the mix as well Funky Flamingo’s Cookie Dough Explosion, the Caramel Apple Cinnamon Roll from Grandma Brown’s Cinnamon Rolls and the Cookies & Crème Funnel Cake from Paulette’s Food.
For those who are undecided whether to eat a meal or dessert, cut to the chase with offerings that fit both bills, such as Donut Dog, from DeAnna’s Diner; Funnel Cake Taco, from The Best Around; and Pop Rock Smoothies, from Cinnamon Saloon.
And don’t let the play on words fool you. The Poutine Sundae from DeAnna’s Steak Sundaes combines fresh-cut fries with fresh cheese curds covered in gravy, with the option to add sirloin steak for “the ultimate cheesesteak.”
“Cheese, ranch, bacon bits and chive” give meaning to the Loaded Onion Rings from Captain Max’s Fry & Seafood Shack while the Big Mack Pizza from Pizza Emporium combines a crust covered with beef, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions, sesame seeds and a special sauce.
Rounding out the offerings are the Garlic Parm Chicken Quesadilla, which basically speaks for itself, while the Hog Trof doesn’t necessarily, unless you’ve surmised it’s built with a baked potato, pulled pork, baked beans and cheese, topped with a creamy coleslaw.
Whether you’re hog-wild to eat and eat some more or determined to hold back and eat within your means, consider a brisk walk through the fair to burn off those extra calories.
As always, there’s tons to explore at the 12-day fair, including agricultural and creative living competitions, live entertainment, educational and vendor exhibits, midway rides and more. This year’s discount days are as follows: Heroes Day (Feb. 10), Senior Days (Feb. 10-11 and 14-18), Two for $10 (Feb. 14), $2 Tuesday (Feb. 15), Find Your Thrills Thursday (Feb. 17), Family Day (Feb. 18) and Coca-Cola Kid’s Day (Feb. 21).
Admission gate hours are 11 a.m. Monday through Thursday and 10 a.m. Friday through Sunday and President’s Day. The hours for midway rides and games are 1 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 10:30 a.m. Friday through Sunday and President’s Day.
For more on fair offerings, prices, times and parking, visit www.FloridaStateFair.com/. The Florida State Fairgrounds is in Tampa, at 4800 North U.S. Highway 301.