ST. PETERSBURG — The Pinellas County Fair is coming to Tropicana Field.
Just as the Honda Grand Prix zooms out of town and before the Tampa Bay Rays settle in for the long season, the fair will set up from March 28 through April 1, in the same spot the Cirque du Soleil's Varekai was held in 2005. It will mark the first time that the fair has been held near downtown St. Petersburg.
The Pinellas County Fair Association ran the fair in Largo from 1917 until 1925, when the county purchased some land. That property was later sold to the city of Largo and is now part of Largo Central Park.
The fair had a brief stint at the Suncoast Speedway before moving more than 10 years ago to the Wagon Wheel Flea Market at 7801 Park Blvd. in Pinellas Park.
"We were approached to help revive the fair," said Stephen White, manager of the Fair and Events Marketing Corp.
White said this is only the start of what he hopes to be an annual event in St. Petersburg.
In addition to a new location, the fair will also have two animal shows featuring bears, including a grizzly, and monkeys and dogs.
There will also be more than 30 carnival rides, including a giant Ferris wheel, live music on three stages, fair food that includes fried Snickers, plus beer and other vendors.
White has hired Modern Midways, a traveling carnival outfit with offices in Miami and Chicago, to handle the rides, games and attractions.
With spring training in full swing, it's hard to imagine anything else coming to the Trop besides baseball.
"The folks at the fair contacted us," said Rick Vaughn, team spokesman for the Tampa Bay Rays. "The dates worked and we were able to fit it in the schedule."
Tickets are $5 in advance, $6 at the gate. Tickets can be purchased at area Walgreens and online at PinellasCountyFair.com. Parking is $5.
A wristband, which provides unlimited rides, is $15 in advance, $20 at the fair.
For information on booths and exhibits, email [email protected] or call (727) 346-8032.
Sandra J. Gadsden can be reached at [email protected].