BROOKSVILLE — Expecting to draw visitors by the thousands, officials of the Hernando County Fair & Youth Livestock Show have assembled a program that includes top-notch entertainment, revved-up motors and new animal contests.
The nine-day event opens at 5 p.m. Friday at the Hernando County Fairgrounds, on the south side of Brooksville.
The opening night headliner, at 7 p.m. on the arena stage, will be the Coasters, a vocal quartet whose rhythm and blues and rock 'n' roll music topped recording charts in the late 1950s with hits such as Searchin', Young Blood and Yackety Yak.
VIP seating is available for $5, a meet-and-greet with the entertainers for $5, or a combo for $8. Sandra Nicholson, the new volunteer fair manager and a fair association board member for eight years, is plugging the program as the fair's top entertainment attraction.
As for motor-powered entertainment, the arena will host a truck and tractor pull at 4 p.m. Saturday. The racetrack will resound with the clash and crash of the popular Demolition Derby at 7 p.m. April 24.
Horses will provide the entertainment during the Paso Fino Horse Show at 2 p.m. Sunday. Solid flooring will be laid, Nicholson said, on which the hoof clicks of the dancing horses will resound. The program is being staged by the local Paso Fino Horse Association.
Livestock competitions will get a boost with the addition of a goat show, with both meat goat and dairy goat divisions, at 2 p.m. Saturday in the barn arena. The call for a goat show surfaced for last year's fair, but didn't materialize. As of midweek, six meat goats and 12 dairy goats had been entered; entries will continue to be accepted through Saturday, Nicholson said.
Also new on the livestock agenda this year, pens of meat rabbits and chicken broilers will be added to the youth livestock auctions.
"A couple of other counties have been playing with it," said livestock chairman David Ward. "We figured we'd give the small-animal kids an opportunity to make some money. Normally, all they get is a ribbon and a little premium money. This will give them a little more money for their time and effort they've put into their project."
Three pens of meat fryer rabbits, three per pen, will be offered during the market swine auction at 7 p.m. Tuesday. Bidding will be by pen rather than poundage. The rabbits will weigh about 5 pounds each.
Meat processors will be available to tend to buyers' choices, Ward said.
Five pens of three chicken broilers each will go for sale during the market steer auction at 7 p.m. Thursday.
"We're really pushing to get buyers for our youth livestock sales," Nicholson said.
Entries include 63 market hogs and 39 steers.
"We are the last sale in the state," she noted, adding, "We've just not gotten support the other (county fair) sales have."
Nicholson said that the state fair board now organizes the county fair schedule, and so Hernando can't do much about being last. A fair is precluded from opening its gates at the same time any other county fair is going on within a 50-mile radius.
Hernando used to schedule its fair to coincide with public school spring break. That wasn't possible this year, Nicholson said. But there was a downside to that, she said, because many local families travel during the break.
With this year's schedule, the fair will open at 5 p.m. and run till 11 p.m. most days. On Saturday, Sunday and April 24, gates will open at 1 p.m.
On Monday, designated as Military/Law Enforcement/Fire Rescue Day, members and retirees of those forces who show proper identification will be admitted at the gate for $3. Senior Day on Wednesday will offer discount admission of $3 for visitors age 60 and older, with a 3 p.m. opening.
In addition to touring exhibits and demonstrations from the farm, homemaking and gardening, the fair will offer food ranging from hot dogs and fries, cotton candy and strawberry shortcake to full-course dinners of barbecued chicken and ribs, prime rib and beef steaks.
And of course there will be plenty of carnival rides and games on the midway.
Last year's attendance reached about 25,000, nearly matching a record of several years ago before the current economic downturn, Nicholson noted.
Organizers hope for even bigger crowds this year.
Beth Gray can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.