There's only one place in Pasco where visitors can feed a grizzly bear (a "Bear Kabob"), watch pigs compete for the Holy Grail of swine dining (an Oreo cookie), interact with a magician-turned-comedian on a magic carpet, eat as much fried food as a stomach can handle (did somebody say elephant ears?) and then nearly kick the clouds on a ride called Vertigo.
Well, maybe start with the ride, eat later.
The air is thick with excitement and the competing smell of corn dogs and livestock. That can only mean one thing: It's county fair time.
The 65th annual Pasco County Fair kicks off Monday when gates open at 3 p.m., and carries its theme of "Ridin,' Rockin' and Livestockin'" full speed through Feb. 26 at the Pasco County Fairgrounds, 36722 State Road 52.
This year's event brings some new eyebrow-raising, gut-busting and just downright fun entertainment to the weeklong event.
With three showings daily in Kiddy Land, "A Grizzly Experience" provides an up-close glimpse into the life of the Alaskan grizzly bear. This isn't your average bear, for sure. Tonk, a 7-foot-tall, 600-pound grizzly, and two cubs, Yogi and Booboo, not yet a year old and weighing less than 100 pounds apiece, have delighted crowds elsewhere with their amazing behaviors. The trio of bears will interact with their handlers while the crowd learns about these massive creatures, what to do if you stumble across a bear in the wild and how bears are trained for movies. Those who wish to make a small donation can feed Tonk a "Bear Kabob."
"Steve the Pretty Good" brings his "Amazing Flying Carpet" show to the Pasco County Fair for the first time. Fair-goers can find Steve roaming around on his magic carpet in the food court area, telling jokes and doing magical tricks daily. Another magic act, Tropical Illusions, makes its Pasco fair debut this year with daily shows on the Clayton Way Stage. They combine illusions, animals and music in their show to promote environmental awareness. Another newcomer, Lisa Lou, will entertain guests daily in the food court area with her strolling circus. At times walking on a ball, she'll please the crowd by juggling, spinning ropes and plates. She might even have a little magic up her sleeve.
But fear not, many of the daily entertainment crowd favorites are back this year. Ron Diamond returns nightly at the Back Porch Theater with his hypnosis comedy act, and yes, he'll bring along his most requested sidekick, the sock money. Robinson's Racing Pigs return to the Ag Stage with their winner-takes-the-Oreo race. Sean Emery, the "world's tallest leprechaun" will take his "Funny Guy Who Juggles Stuff" show to the Back Porch Theater.
"We're trying to change it up a little bit every year and still maintain the things people enjoy," said Clark Converse, fair program manager.
Of course the livestock exhibits, from rabbits to goats to poultry, that showcase the hard work of Pasco's younger residents are a mainstay. Pageants, the midway, demolition derby, agricultural exhibits and musical acts naturally remain staples.
While fair-goers will have to shell out money for food, rides and midway games, the regular $8 adult admission price is a bargain to soak up the overall fair flair, said Converse.
"It fun and it's inexpensive," he said. "It costs you eight bucks for a movie and that's an hour and a half. And this is eight bucks and it's all day."