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Hernando fairgoers say 'yes' to demolition derby, $10 Tuesday

BROOKSVILLE — Blame it on the sagging local economy or the time frame, which included Easter Sunday, but attendance at this year's Hernando County Fair and Youth Livestock Show was off about 8 percent from last year.

Still, the seven-day event attracted some 28,000 visitors, fair administrator Joy Jackson said last week.

Although the staging coincided with the Hernando County School District's spring break, Jackson said, "The difficulty was Easter. That's a hard day to play."

Fairgoers were few on the day that is traditionally a day for families to go to church and spend time at home.

A new venture, an afternoon parade of Easter hats dubbed Hattitude, attracted only three well-coiffed competitors. The Saturday Easter egg hunt fared better, attracting about 100 children to search for treats.

The most popular offering, as usual, was Friday's demolition derby.

"That brings them out. They still like the crash and bang," Jackson noted, estimating the crowd at 3,500. "It was standing room only," she said.

With a nod to the strained economy, the fair this year touted a new reduced admission of $10 on Ten-Buck Tuesday. It attracted families by the droves, kids, parents and grandparents elbow to elbow, tallying the fair's second most attended day.

Vendors reported that sales from food to trinkets was "a little low," Jackson said. "But they were very pleased with the new set-up of the main arena. Everybody had to go down the main thoroughfare (to reach the arena), which was a plus."

The home-style exhibit hall, featuring competitive entries of home products, was reconfigured from mere shelves for canned and baked goods and hanging racks for sewn garments and needlework. The hall this year showcased the entries in mock kitchens and bedrooms.

"We scout other fairs and this is one of the things our board noticed. (Other fairs) made it more friendly, more homey," Jackson said. "Everybody was pleased with the looks.''

Also in the home-style hall, more educational and informational brochures were rounded up and offered from such agencies as the Southwest Florida Water Management District and the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs.

And then there was the new Ask Me booth set up and staffed by 4-H Club members. It's theme: "No question is too stupid to ask me." The 4-Hers touted projects, answered questions and often led visitors to view the youths' own 4-H endeavors, whether rabbits or hogs or crafts or artworks.

"That was a big plus," Jackson acknowledged.

The 58th rendition of the fair came off this year with the help of some 200 volunteers who sold tickets, worked the office, and staffed gates, a new VIP tent and a first-time fair promotional booth. More bent low to pick up trash daily.

A wrap meeting to assess this year's fair and begin planning for next year is set for May 14. "A few things I'd like to work on," Jackson said, "is strolling entertainments. The entertainment tent is always busy."

Shortly after that, Jackson will attend the annual convention of the Florida Federation of Fairs. "I always pick up some ideas there," she said.

Beth Gray can be contacted at graybethn@earthlink.net.

Hernando fairgoers say 'yes' to demolition derby, $10 Tuesday 04/18/09 [Last modified: Saturday, April 18, 2009 12:40pm]
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