ABOUT THE FAIR
The Florida State Fair celebrates its 109th year for the next 10 days with all the pomp and circumstance you would expect, plus a few new additions. Here's a primer.
IT'S NOT A HIPPO
This year's fair logo features an animal, but it's wearing a conquistador helmet, which confuses some. It's not a hippo (come on?) or an armadillo (what?) or a giraffe (seriously?), it's a jersey cow. Thus, it's a "cowquistador," patterned after Spanish explorers. Fair officials jokingly call him Ponce Moo Leon, a clear reference to the explorer who discovered Florida searching for the fountain of youth. The logo ties to the fair's celebration of Florida's 500th anniversary, and the state's rich cattle-farming and agricultural heritage.
You can take a photo with a cowquistador cut out, or pick up a map at Guest Services, go on a cowquistador treasure hunt by visiting the 10 tour locations and get the map stamped at each. Complete eight of the 10 stops and receive a cowquistador sticker.
IT'S OUR ANNIVERSARY
The all-new Florida Cattle Ranching Exhibit ties to the state's agricultural roots and displays five centuries of cattle ranching, from its early beginnings in Colonial Florida through present-day.
At the entertainment hall, the fair presents Zoom 'N Through 500 Years of Florida, a Broadway-styled revue that capsulizes the state's history. Wonder if it includes a Tom Petty, Lynyrd Skynyrd or KC and the Sunshine Band song.
ON A BUDGET
Monday through Friday, regular gate admission to the fair is $10 for adults and children age 12 and over, $5 for children 6-11 and free for children 5 and under. On Saturday and Sunday, it's $12 for adults, $6 for children. Ride armbands are an additional fee ($25 to $30), but daily discounts exist for various groups and families depending on the day. The fair also touts more than 100 free activities and shows including a circus, sand sculptors, exotic petting zoo and various musical acts in the entertainment hall, international stage and special events center.
On Monday, select vendors present Taste of the Fair, where you can get smaller portions of fair favorites for less money.
AND SPEAKING OF THE FOOD
New dietary enticements for the bold and daring include the pizza cone (pizza crust shaped like an ice cream cone, filled with cheese, pepperoni, sausage and tomato sauce), burger with redneck attitude (ground beef patty topped with cheese, bacon, fried bologna, baked beans and potato sticks) chicken and cereal on a stick (battered and fried with cereal crumbs, drizzled with sweet sauce) and the Krispy Kreme burger. If you want healthy alternatives consider Two Asian Guys and a Grill (Japanese-style steak, chicken and shrimp), Carley's Sea Side Grille (grilled shrimp, lobster and filet mignon), Walker Seafood (alligator and shark meat) and the remodeled Waterfront Cafe, presented by the Tampa Bay Times.
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday have been designated senior days and seniors get in for $8 at the gate.
Want to make a Florida State Fair official's eyes light up? Ask them about the new restrooms. The authority spent $600,000 renovating the restrooms and boast that they will leave you in awe. Go, even if you don't have to go.
Compiled by Ernest Hooper and Sharon Kennedy Wynne