By LINDA CHION KENNEY
It’s time to break the fast and any food resolutions that linger as the 12-day Florida State Fair opens Feb. 9 with a whole lot of temptation and a schedule full of rides, entertainment, competitions and educational and art exhibits.
The fair runs through Feb. 20 at the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa. After 6 p.m., all youth 17 years of age and younger must be accompanied by a paid parent or guardian 21 years of age or older with valid identification. An adult can supervise up to four children, according to posted fair rules.
An over-arching aim of the fair is to provide opportunities for agricultural events and exhibits. Competitions run the gamut, from the Beef Show to the Dairy Show, with shows as well for boer, dairy and pygymy goats; poultry; llamas; and youth sheep, steer, swine and dogs.
Steeped in tradition, creative living competitions date back to 1904, showcasing statewide entries in quilting, painting, baking and more. According to fair officials, the tradition continues, “with youth and adult artists and crafters, bakers, woodworkers, horticulturalists, needle artists, photographers and more bringing their best work to be judged at the fair.”
Youth projects include a hay bale decorating contest for FFA chapters, 4-H clubs and Youth Leadership in Production Agriculture (YLPA) groups. The Hillsborough Soil and Water Conservation District invites youth and adults to help paint rain barrels.
In keeping with its roots, the “Salute to Agriculture” tent showcases the “Farmyard Follies,” a show featuring goats, sheep, llamas and “Fiona-No-No,” billed as the “infamous troublemaking spotted donkey.” Racing Pigs Dale Earnhog Jr., Taylor Swine, Justin “Bacon” Bieber, Spamela Anderson, Shaquille O’Squeal and more return in their pursuit of the coveted winner’s cookie.
Before heading off for the entertainment, check out the decadent food offerings, which this year again feature another round of newbies, such as The Best Around’s Tampa Cuban Funnel Cake Sandwich, featuring “Spanish pork, smoked ham, Genoa salami, Swiss cheese, dill pickles and mustard, nestled between two 4-inch cakes, heat-pressed and topped with a donut glaze.” For dessert, from Funky Flamingo, the Cookie Taco Supreme features a “chocolate chip cookie folded into a taco, stuffed with s’mores ice cream, topped with Oreos and chocolate dip, with a swirl of whipped cream on top.”
Ready for round two? Make room for the Peanut Butter Cream Doughnut (Peachey’s Baking Co.); Dillylicious Loaded Pickles (Chester’s Gators & Taters); Hot Cheeto Burger (Top Notch Concessions); Salted Caramel Turtle Funnel Cake (Paulette’s Food Service); Apple Fries, battered, deep-fried and coated in cinnamon sugar (Apples Fries); Takis Tots (Totville); Mac Daddy, featuring BBQ pulled pork and waffles (Low N Slow Catering); Walking Nacho Dog (DeAnna’s Diner); Fried Key Lime Pie (DeAnna’s Steak Sundaes); Strawberry Shortcake Funnel Cake (Ryals Concessions Sweet Shop); Mexican Street Corn Pizza (Angela’s Pizza); Cowboy Quesadilla (Mexican Grill); Chicken Parm On a Stick (Captain Max’s); Cookie Taco Supreme (Funky Flamingo); Pork Belly Pineapple Bowl (Brazillian Bowls); Sweet Potato Apple Pie (Spudtacular Potatoes); and Nacho Mama (Rosie’s Nachos), featuring tenderloin steaks and so much more.
Wash it all down with Dill Pickle Lemonade (Miller & Company Concessions); The Dye Smoothie (Cinnamon Saloon); Watermelon Sweet Tea (DeAnna’s Steak Sundaes); and Mangonada (A&M Concessions), featuring mango blended with chamoy, tajin and a tamarind stick.
Belly full, it’s time to view local talent on the community stage and to revisit long-time fair favorites, such as the Dennis Lee Band. Entertainment acts also include Circus Hollywood, MythiCreatures, Rock N Rolling Piano, Flying Royals’ Spectacular, Draft Horse Pull, Demolition Derby, Wet & Wild Water Show, Extreme Illusions and Escapes, Cycle Circus Live, Extreme Dogs, Fire Guy and female daredevil Adrenalin.
Catch the balancing acts of Allez-Oops; the physical comedy of Kenny Ahern; the dueling pianos of Duelly Noted; the bronze bells of Cast in Bronze; and Marc Dobson’s one-man band, featuring Marc Dobson and his 91 instruments. Check out the Budweiser Clydesdales show and related photo opportunities.
Additional acts include Divebombers; Sarah Diamond & The Soul Miners; American Idol contestant Mylon Shamble; Shawn Scheller & The Contenders; Derek Lersch Band; Modern Measure; Nate Mosely; Rockland Road; the T.K.O. Band, featuring Katie Lombardo; and the vibrant 22N party band from Florida’s west coast.
For times, date, admission costs and details on rides and so many more fair offerings, visit www.FloridaStateFair.com/. The Florida State Fairgrounds are in Tampa at 4800 U.S. Highway 301 North. Call 813-621-7821 or email info@FloridaStateFair.com/.