BROOKSVILLE — While the moos, music and motors typically attract folks to county fairs, the Hernando County Fair and Youth Livestock Show, which opens Friday and runs through April 23, hopes to draw attention to some unsung exhibits through this year's theme: "Sew It, Grow It, Show It."
"We want to let people recognize there's things out there besides animals," fair board treasurer Robin McAndrews said.
McAndrews pointed to a 4-H club whose members sew and cook. In the exhibit hall, they will hang their handmade garments and accessories and serve up their baked goods for judges' evaluations, letting visitors know traditional home crafts remain current and laudable pursuits.
As for growing, young and adult home gardeners will have plucked the best of their vegetables and flowers for competition and display. Master gardeners and horticulture enthusiasts will exhibit ranks of luscious plants that challenge green thumbs.
Always augmenting the traditional, the fair brings something new each year — this year the Banana Derby, with monkeys aboard racing dogs, performing daily.
"Really different," McAndrew chuckled.
Replacing the usual talent/beauty pageant, a national model search company, Sunburst Beauty Pageant, will seek model-worthy girls, young women and little boys in a beauty and personality competition at 2 p.m. Sunday. Entrants may register up to the opening with an entry fee of $45 — additional fees for special crownings such as best smile or prettiest hair. No talent or interview is required.
Beauty, according to some beholders, and utility will combine as the Florida Department of Forestry brings an old-time helicopter and classic fire trucks for a first-ever display at the fair.
Also making inaugural appearances: a traveling exhibit of vintage trucks and another of vintage automobiles, both with interpreters on Senior Day on Wednesday.
Among basics, friendly cattle will vie for attention at the popular market steer judging at 5:30 p.m. Monday, earlier than usual on the schedule, giving fairgoers more opportunity to ogle youth-raised steaks on the hoof.
That judging will feed into a 6 p.m. Wednesday auction of steers and meat poultry. Bidders will be admitted free.
FFA and 4-H market oinkers will cavort and compete under a judge's eye at 5:30 p.m. Thursday and will follow with their auction, joined by meat rabbits, at 6 p.m. Friday, bidders again free.
In the second year of staging two sales rather than one, McAndrews pointed out that bidders seeking to buy a particular species of livestock won't have wait for the parading of their choices.
"It seemed to work well last year, having two sales," she said, "so we're doing it again."
Headlining musical attractions — seven evening features and many daytime — will be the Chris Duarte Group, mounting the stage at 9 p.m. Friday as the vocalist and crossover guitar masters perform 14 original blues tunes amid a surround of pyrotechnics.
"(Duarte's) the one entertainment people have been pushing," said McAndrews.
She's heard buzz, too, about booked performances by JoJo Jones, the Bearded Bros. Band and Windy Ridge.
Motors will usurp music when trucks and tractors rev up for pull-offs at 4 p.m. Saturday. Cars will add the racket of crashing when the demolition derby takes to the track at 7 p.m. April 23.
Carnival rides and games will play to thrill-seekers nightly and on some afternoons.
Food will be served up aplenty, including the Florida delicacy, gator bites.
Discounted admission will be offered to ages 18 and under on Friday, Kids Day, to veterans, firefighters and law enforcement with ID on Hero's Day on Monday, and to those over 55 on Senior Day, Wednesday.
Contact Beth Gray [email protected]