DADE CITY — A celebrity milk-off and the Axe Women Loggers of Maine. Racing pigs and a Barnyard Revue. Whirling midway rides and the wafting aromas of fried dough, corn dogs and freshly baled hay.
The 70th annual Pasco County Fair kicks off Monday for a seven-day run, and organizers have been switching things up with hopes to entice visitors.
"It's been 70 years of homespun fun. We're trying to make it exciting and new for everyone," said fair general manager Clark Converse.
That means dusting off the entertainment schedule to replace some of the old with fresh, new acts and adjusting to things beyond the control of fair organizers — like the Pasco County schools schedule, which weighed heavily in the decision to cancel the parade this year.
Unlike in some years past, Monday — Presidents Day — is a school day for Pasco students. School bands would not be able to participate, the board of directors wrote on the fair Facebook page, and organizers would need to alter the traditional parade route to avoid traffic conflicts with school dismissal times and bus routes.
"We were bound and determined to have a parade, and we tried," Converse said. "It just didn't work out."
Even so, there will be plenty to take in.
Fairgoers can count on the enduring staples of an event that is centered on agriculture education — the hay-baling contest, the celebrity milk-off, the weekend rodeo and an impressive number of student showings in the livestock and plant shows and sales.
"It's all about ag and hands-on, down-on-the-farm learning skills," Converse said, adding that a new offering called the Barnyard Revue will entertain while it educates youngsters about farm life.
Another holdover: Robinson's Racing Pigs and Paddling Porkers.
"The racing pigs are coming back because you can't get rid of the racing pigs because everybody wants to see the racing pigs," Converse said.
New to the entertainment lineup are two gospel groups, the Triumphant Quartet and the Sound (Rob Mills Family); Lizzy the Dream Girl Hypnosis Show, and the Axe Women Loggers of Maine, who will be displaying their chopping, crosscutting and sawing skills on the Ag Stage.
"This is a break from the ordinary," said Converse, a 35-year volunteer at the fair.
Not that there haven't been loggers before. There was a Canadian men's group about 25 years ago, he recalled.
"We're hoping that the twist on the perception on lumberjacks will intrigue people to come out," he said. "It looks like it's going to be very entertaining."
Contact Michele Miller at [email protected] Follow at Michele Miller52.