BROOKSVILLE — Despite distractions that include charges of mismanagement and an ongoing Sheriff's Office investigation into its finances, the 2014 Hernando County Fair & Youth Livestock Show will go on.
That's the message from the Hernando County Fair Association about the 63rd annual event, which opens Friday and continues through April 12 at the fairgrounds south of downtown Brooksville.
"We still have a fair, and nothing's changed (about) that," said fair president Robin McAndrew.
Added vice president Tammy Fincher: "Obviously, we're all hoping for the better. Everybody's really pushing to make things work."
Fincher, who doubles as co-chairwoman of the livestock committee and is a 4-H Club leader, said the fair is mostly about children.
"The kids have worked really hard, their animals, their record books, the whole nine yards," she said, referring to members of 4-H and FFA who have raised 61 market hogs, 38 beef steers, 13 pens of meat rabbits and 11 pens of meat poultry, all of which be shown at the fair.
Their "payoff day," will come April 12, when prospective buyers will be admitted to the fairgrounds for free. The auction will start at 10 a.m. with hogs the first animals on the block, followed by poultry, rabbits and steers.
The fair's youth focus is augmented by numerous entries of their arts, crafts, hobbies and home products as well as group exhibits by schools, 4-H Clubs and FFA chapters.
Other fairgoers who visit for entertainment will encounter a full schedule of stage shows along with midway games and 28 carnival rides, the latter including 14 designated as kiddie rides.
One of the featured acts will be Lance Gifford & Co. of Miami, a renowned magician and hypnotist, who will perform daily in rotation with perennial draw, Nojoe's Clown Circus. Gifford will feature 90-minute evening hypnotist shows both Fridays and Saturdays of the fair.
Responding to the long-standing desire of many area residents for a known entertainment headliner, McAndrew said: "A big, big draw costs a lot of money. We've really been trying to stress local, getting local bands in."
Several of the bands scheduled to perform at the fair have regional connections.
One of the exceptions is Borderline, a six-piece, classic country and rock group out of St. Louis.
Also, "I've heard good things about Boogie Bros.," McAndrew said of the party band playing an eclectic mix of rock, R&B, funk, Latin, blues and Motown, taking the stage at 6 p.m. April 11.
Twelve drivers had registered early for the demolition derby — "consistently the biggest draw," McAndrew said — which starts at 7 p.m. on April 12.
The truck and tractor pull, scheduled for 4 p.m. Saturday, will pit garden tractors, mini-rods, V-8, antique and smoker tractors as well as gas and diesel trucks.
Those big guys will be preceded at 1:30 p.m. by a new contest: lawn tractor racing.
Another fair first — a speed-knitting contest — will be held at the family exhibition building at 2:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. Saturday and April 12.
In the same building, chair caning and treadle machine sewing will be demonstrated daily. Visitors can also see entrants in the quilt and needlecraft competitions.
The fair's carnival will be staged by North American Midway and Entertainment, which winters at the fairgrounds.