DADE CITY — The time of year for cotton candy, Ferris wheels, beauty queens and youth showmanship has once again arrived.
The annual Pasco County Fair begins Monday and promises to provide the zeal most fairgoers have become accustomed to over the past 64 years.
Among the headliners at this year's fair: Mallory Lewis and star puppet Lamb Chop. Lewis has been continuing the legacy of her mother, Shari Lewis, who performed for years on the Emmy award-winning television show, Lamb Chop's Play-Along.
Other acts include magician and illusionist Ron Diamond, and family entertainer and comic Kenny Ahern.
The fair also offers attractions such as the Stony Roberts Demolition Derby, which will feature local drivers competing for a cash prize. There will be a Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association sanctioned rodeo with cowboys and cowgirls from all over the nation showing their skills in the arena. Daredevils will enjoy the Fearless Flores Thrill Show, featuring a human cannonball, motorcycle highway in the sky and the Globe of Death.
Beyond the midway and attractions, however, the Pasco County Fair offers more than just deep-fried delicacies, adrenaline-pumping rides and family entertainment. The core mission of the fair is to promote the youth in the community through various means.
Throughout the year, students across the county have been raising livestock, growing plants and creating works of art, among other things. These activities allow students to learn the hard work and dedication that goes hand in hand with success, as well as learning the process behind various agrarian productions.
The fair also has a talent showcase open to participants of age 5 years and up.
In addition, the annual Miss Pasco County and Miss Heart of Florida pageants will feature girls from all over the state competing for scholarship money — and for the Miss Pasco County winner, the chance to participate in the Miss Florida pageant in April.
The Pasco County Fair is not an event that plans and runs itself. Fair chairman Tracy Thompson and his volunteer staff are the heartbeat of the Pasco County Fair.
"People don't realize that the fair is produced by 30 volunteers," Thompson said. Those 30 volunteers devote their time to make each fair special and exciting. This practice has been occurring since the fair's inception.
"That's the amazing thing," Thompson said. "There are people 64 years later that are still donating their time."
Admission is $8 for adults and $5 for children, with a special of $3 on Tuesday for all fairgoers. All of the events are free once inside the fairgrounds, with the exception of food and tickets for the rides.
Thompson is proud that the family-friendly fun won't break the bank.
"A family can come for $8, see all of (the attractions) and spend the day … you can't do that at Disney," he said.