Hernando County Fair Association president Sandra Nicholson admits that putting on a county fair in the midst of a struggling economy has been tough.
It seems everything connected to the event — from providing entertainment and carnival rides to showing livestock — has gotten costlier, while people have less money to spend.
That's why Nicholson and her staff have focused on bringing quality activities to the 62nd annual Hernando County Fair and Youth Livestock Show that won't break anyone's bank.
"We've done what we can to hold down prices and also bring in things that will appeal to a range of ages," Nicholson said. "Sometimes we're surprised at what people like."
Nicholson said that with a bit of luck with the weather, she's hopeful of a rebound at this year's fair, which opens Friday. Attendance has been down for the past few years, which Nicholson attributes to not being able to hold the fair during spring break for local schools, as well as to scheduling conflicts involving the midway concessionaire.
With weekend activities this year aimed mostly at a younger crowd, Nicholson said she and her staff have tried to focus weekday activities toward older patrons, who are more apt to attend during those days. Among the weekday activities: oldies musical and dance acts and cooking demonstrations.
The bulk of the fair's live entertainment year will be indoors in the newly renovated auditorium. The schedule boasts 25 local and regional music and dance acts, including popular area bands such as the Tyler Creek Band, Southern Silk, Brian Chytka and the Terry Cole Show.
On weekends, the outdoor arena will host a variety of events, culminating with the popular demolition derby on the fair's final day, April 13. This year, the fair will welcome Brooksville horse master Tommie Turvey, who gained notoriety for training the Clydesdale horses that were used in this year's popular Budweiser Super Bowl ad.
Livestock committee co-chairwoman Tammy Fincher said that although entries are down slightly for this year's fair, she expects a strong show from youth FFA and 4-H exhibitors from around the county. Entries for the livestock show include 34 steers and 56 pigs. The younger animal showers will have their own exhibit area, where more than three dozen rabbits, chickens and turkeys will be on display.
"For kids who want to learn about raising livestock, the smaller animals are a great starting point," Fincher said. "Many of them are anxious to move up to raising livestock after raising rabbits and chickens."
Logan Neill can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 848-1435.