Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Florida State Fair opens for the 110th time

TAMPA — The crowd gasped when the man put his hand in the alligator's mouth.

"Dave, you're an animal!" audience member Shawn Clark, 28, yelled when performer David Castillo pinned the 8-foot alligator then heaved it in the air. "That gator about ate his face off."

Around the corner from the gator wrestling match, the scent of dough bathing in grease hung in the air as midway lights flashed and ride operators tried to entice fair-goers to test out the newest attraction.

The Florida State Fair opened Thursday with more than 6,000 animals, 100 rides and rows and rows of deep-fried food, including this year's darling, the Ramen Noodle Burger.

For the 110th year, people from across Tampa Bay and the state flocked to the fairgrounds to experience all the State Fair's scents, sights and flavors.

•••

Gov. Rick Scott flipped the switch at about 6:30 a.m. Thursday, bringing the midway to life with flickering, buzzing lights.

Following a cabinet meeting which honored service members, volunteers, teachers and students, the governor made his way past stands touting fresh lemonade, turkey legs, corn dogs and funnel cakes. Every few seconds, someone stopped him to take photos or shake his hand.

"Aren't you in the news all the time?" 8-year-old Giovanni Everest of Walden Lake Elementary School asked Scott.

"I was on the news before you got up this morning," Scott replied.

•••

As the governor gripped and grinned, Janelle Balceiro, 16, prepared to show her 2-year-old miniature zebu (a type of cattle) in the Charlie Lykes Arena across the sprawling fairgrounds.

Blaze, a 573-pound bull, kicked the ground and bucked his head stubbornly as Janelle lead him around the ring.

Please don't get loose, Janelle thought as Blaze strained to pull away.

A judge walked around, evaluating the animals on their posture, body structure and how they look.

As Janelle struggled to keep Blaze calm, the judges announced the rankings of the eight participants. The teen smiled briefly, sweat dripping down her forward, as she and Blaze claimed third place.

Janelle, who attends Felix Varela Senior High School in Miami, decided to show cattle for the first time this year because she thought it would be a challenge.

"They're so big and stubborn," she said. "I didn't think anyone could manage them."

•••

By late afternoon, the much-acclaimed Comet II — the largest portable roller coaster in the United States — still hadn't opened to riders.

Kids tugged at their parents' arms and pointed as two maintenance workers climbed the 52-foot-tall coaster and tinkered with one of the carts.

Richard Horton, 45, of Orlando watched as workers tested the ride repeatedly.

"They use this ride a lot at the fairs in the Midwest," said Horton, who builds models of rides out of recycled materials such as bottle caps and paper clips. "I was going to ride it, but I guess we'll see."

Caitlin Johnston can be reached at cjohnston@tampabay.com or (813) 661-2443.

Florida State Fair opens for the 110th time 02/06/14 [Last modified: Thursday, February 6, 2014 11:42pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. The Penny Hoarder tops 79 fastest growing Tampa Bay companies on Inc. 5000

    Business

    ST. PETERSBURG — The Penny Hoarder today further cemented its reputation as one of the country's fastest growing companies. The personal finance web site business ranks 25th nationwide and tops in the Tampa Bay market for growth on the just released 2017 Inc. 5000 list of fastest growing businesses.

    One of the fastest growing startups in the country is St. Petersburg's The Penny Hoarder, a financial advice web site aimed at helping readers save money. Playing a game in the office is (right to left) founder and CEO Kyle Taylor, vice president of business operations Vishal Mahtani and executive editor Alexis Grant. [Courtesy of The Penny Hoarder]
  2. Here's what it's like inside a writhing, growling Howl-O-Scream audition

    Florida

    TAMPA — At Busch Gardens, a Howl-O-Scream manager is hunting zombies.

    Auditioner Natalie Rychel, 20, of Tampa, Fla., high fives director of atmosphere Morgan Malice after being selected for a job for Bush Gardens' Howl-O-Scream during an audition at the theme park on Friday, August 11, 2017, in Tampa, Fla. (From left) Auditioners Jared Shipley, 20, of Lakeland, Fla., and Lincoln Scott, 41, of Riverview, Fla., look over. This year, Howl-O-Scream will take place from September 22 to October 29 at Bush Gardens. ALESSANDRA DA PRA  |   Times
  3. Tampa Bay homeowners sue JPMorgan Chase for billing on already-paid mortgages

    Banking

    ST. PETERSBURG — Two Tampa Bay homeowners are suing JPMorgan Chase Bank for attempting to continue to collect on what they say were already-paid-off mortgages.

    JPMorgan Chase is the subject of a lawsuit by two Tampa Bay homeowners who say the bank attempted to collect on mortgages they already paid off. | [Getty Images]
  4. ‘Please don't let her be dead': Man struck by car recounts Charlottesville protest (w/video)

    Nation

    CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — With tires screeching and bodies flying, Marcus Martin shoved his fiancee out of the way of a car charging through a crowd of peaceful protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia.

    People fly into the air as a vehicle drives into a group of protesters demonstrating against a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017. The nationalists were holding the rally to protest plans by the city of Charlottesville to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. [Ryan M. Kelly | The Daily Progress via AP]
  5. Taco Bell wants you to put 'Pop Rocks' on your burrito

    General

    Have you ever taken the first bite of your burrito and felt like the heat from the hot sauce wasn't enough?

    Taco Bell is trying out its Firecracker Burrito in three California locations. (Taco Bell)