Make us your home page

Guide to the 2013 Florida State Fair

The Florida State Fair returns for its nearly two-week run today with the usual mix of carnival rides and deep-fried outrages encircling a sandy expanse of pavilions containing farm animals, arts and crafts, live entertainment and a new emphasis on Florida history to mark the 500th anniversary of a guy named Ponce first stepping foot in the Sunshine State.

First, the food

The most popular attraction of the state fair is the fare. Just what have they thought of to deep fry this year? Old favorites like chocolate-covered bacon, deep-fried Snickers and the Krispy Kreme cheeseburger are returning but there are some new curiosities this year:

Pizza Cone: This is a good example of what fairs seem to do best: Take something that's already easy to eat on the move and make it cheesier and messier. The pizza crust is in the shape of an ice cream cone and filled with cheese, pepperoni, sausage and tomato sauce, all baked in an oven. You end up with a concoction not too easy to set down and we have visions of pizza sauce dripping out of the cone, but it's still ingenious.

Chicken and Cereal on a Stick: It sounds tame enough, but wait there's more to it. You pick from one of four cereals: Cap'n Crunch, Peanut Butter Crunch, Rice Krispies or Honey Bunches of Oats. They pulverize the cereal to make a breading and flash fry the chicken on a stick and then drizzle it with peanut butter sauce or honey and (brace yourself) marshmallow drizzle for the Rice Krispies version.

Burger mania: There's lots of burger ingenuity this year. There's a Burger with the Redneck Attitude, which is topped with cheese, bacon, fried bologna, baked beans and a generous handful of potato sticks. The Philly Burger is like the signature steak sandwich except it's chopped burger meat sauteed with mushrooms and onion then topped with provolone cheese before you add condiments (lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle). More pizza madness is found in the Burger Pisa, a burger topped with mozzarella cheese, Italian sauce, pepperoni, fresh basil and optional sauteed mushrooms and onion. And they go for fancy with the Uptown Burger, a fresh burger topped with mozzarella cheese, tomato, Italian sauce and fresh basil.

New vendors: This year they include Two Asians and a Grill offering Japanese-style steak, chicken, and shrimp; Carley's Sea Side Grille, which will be grilling up shrimp, lobster and even filet mignon, anyway you want it. But it's Walker Seafood, featuring alligator and shark meat that likely will get the most attention from the adventurous eater.

Music and entertainment

LeAnn Rimes (Feb. 18) is the biggest headliner of the fair this year, performing at 7:30 p.m. in the Entertainment Hall. Tickets start at $25, not including fair admission.

An unusual choice is the Gainesville punk band Less Than Jake on Feb. 14 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 VIP seating, $10 reserved seating and limited free mezzanine level bleacher seating. Fair admission required.

Other acts include:

Starship featuring Mickey Thomas at 7:30 p.m. Monday. Concert admission is $15 VIP seating, $10 reserved seating and limited free mezzanine level bleacher seating. Fair admission required.

The Bellamy Brothers at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday. Tickets are $15 VIP seating, $10 reserved seating and limited free mezzanine level bleacher seating. Fair admission required.

Zoom'N is a "Broadway-style musical journey of Florida's history" that has been created especially for the Florida State Fair for daily performances.

History in the making

This year is the 500th anniversary of Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon's arrival in Florida. The fair will salute the anniversary with exhibits such as "Florida Agriculture: 500 Years in the Making," which is a look at the history of farming in the state. The pun-loving fair organizers have added a new "ConquistaTOUR," a self-guided exploration of the 330-acre fairgrounds, with stops at the "Mooternity Ward" livestock exhibit under the fair's "COWquistador" logo. Pick up a map at Guest Services, visit the 10 tour locations and get the map stamped at each. Complete 8 of the 10 stops and receive a Cow-quistador sticker. There's also a new Florida Cattlemen's Museum, Florida's Learning Garden to get tips on how to grow produce, herbs and fruit here, and Cow Hunter's Camp in Cracker Country.

Discount days

The fair seems to have as many discount days as it does deep fryers. For a complete list, go to

Florida State Fair

The fair runs today through Feb. 18 with 108 rides on its midway as well as food, entertainment and lots of animal encounters.

Admission: $8–$12 ages 12 and older, $4–$6 ages 6–11, 5 and under free. Parking is free.

Hours: Gates open weekdays at 10 a.m.; Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at 9 a.m. Closing time varies by the day of the week.

Where: Florida State Fairgrounds, 4802 U.S. 301 N, Tampa

Guide to the 2013 Florida State Fair 02/06/13 [Last modified: Thursday, February 7, 2013 8:09am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Bright light! Bright light! There's really a script for Gremlins 3


    In the face of all that is unholy, it now appears there’s a finished script for Gremlins 3. This is what happens when you feed Hollywood after midnight.

  2. Opera Tampa names three guest conductors for 2017-2018 season


    TAMPA — Opera Tampa has named guest conductors for the 2017-2018 season, a move made necessary by the resignation of previous artistic director Daniel Lipton.

    Argentinian conductor Jorge Parodi will conduct Rossini's The Barber of Seville for Opera Tampa, Feb. 2 and 4, 2018. Courtesy of the Straz Center.
  3. 'License to Drive' reboot? Another DUI for Hollywood


    The ‘80s remake that REALLY nobody wanted is on its way: License to Drive, the lightweight comedy that starred the two Coreys, is being rebooted with female leads.

  4. Pasco Events for Aug. 18-24


    19 Saturday

    Eating Disorders Anonymous: This new group is for those wishing to recover from an eating disorder. Meetings are weekly. The contact is Pam Reitmeier at 10 a.m. No dues or fees. The A-Club, 18922 Titus Road, Hudson. (813) 731-3646.

    21 …

  5. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for Aug. 16


    The Art of the Brick: An elaborate display of more than 100 pieces of Lego artwork including the life sized sculpture of a man ripping open his chest, a 20-foot-long T. rex skeleton, a giant skull and replicas of famous works including Vincent Van Gogh's Starry Night and Leonardo Da Vinci's Mona …

    The Art of the Brick lego exhibit has hit over 75,000 visitors to the free exhibit. The line Sunday 8/6/2017 was out the door and alongside the building. The free exhibit sponsored by the Vinik Family Foundation is open Wednesdays through Sundays through Sept. 4 at 802 E Whiting St..