Make us your home page

What to know: Florida State Fair guide and tips

TAMPA -- Midway madness returns starting Thursday when the Florida State Fair fires up its deep fryers and midway rides and readies farm animals for 12 days of nostalgia-scented exhibition.

Thanks to Florida's balmy weather, this is the first state fair of the year in the nation. So Tampa's showcase gets first crack at blowing our minds with what can come out of a deep fryer, and this year the funnel cake will never be the same.

There will once again be higher security on Friday for the day Hillsborough students get a free ticket and a day off school. That's on par with what deputies have done since the 2014 death of Andrew Joseph III, who was hit by a car and died after being kicked out of the fair. This week marks the third anniversary of his death, and his family is continuing to call attention to fair safety and will have a showing Saturday of the documentary The Untold Story, at 5 p.m. at Tampa Underground, 1925 E Second Ave., Tampa.

Hillsborough sheriff's spokesman Larry McKinnon said the joint efforts of the community, school and deputies have been successful in making the fair a safer place.

"You can't measure what you've prevented, so no news is good news sometimes," McKinnon said. "I think the fact that we have not had any major incidents in the last few years is a testament to the fact that it's working."

Meanwhile, the fair brings the usual mix of exhibits, animals, lawn mower races and rodeos. On the midway, fair organizers say they are setting up the largest portable Ferris wheel in North America. The Midway Sky Eye is equipped with 36 gondolas and towers 155 feet above the midway.

Also new this year is an interactive exhibit for kids called Sweet: the Tasty Journey, a hands-on history of candy in pop culture with a giant Candy Land game perfect for selfies.

Entertainment is free, except for the Country Gold tour ($10-$20 Feb. 14 and Feb. 15), and the lineup includes the Circus Hollywood stunt show, a giraffe menagerie, performing sea lions, the Budweiser Clydesdales (Thursday through Saturday) and daily racing pigs.

But back to the food.

The funnel cake — batter poured through a funnel into hot grease before the fried dough is topped with powdered sugar — has been getting the crazy fair-food treatment in recent years, and this year is no different. A recent vote of fair fans gave the people's choice award to the Cheesy Fried Enchilada Funnel Cake from the always outrageous McGrath family at Best Around concessions. The cornmeal funnel cake batter mixed with enchilada spice is topped with queso and ground chorizo.

Also keep an eye out for the Nutella Oreo Funnel Cake, White Cheddar and Bacon Pretzel Dog, the Pizza Cone, Kettle Corn Ice Cream, Shrimp and Grits Sundae and Donut Grilled Cheese.

Also new this year is the Alaskan Soda Jerk, a special soft drink concession stand serving up root beer floats, cherry lime-aids, shakes and malts. It's all set against a nostalgic backdrop of '50s music, with a diner-style booth and costumed servers in aprons, paper hats and bow ties. "Soda Jerks" will entertain customers with their presentations.

You can save a few dollars if you buy your tickets before Thursday's opening. Once the fair opens, admission is $11, $6 for kids, $13 Fridays through Sundays, $7 for kids. Florida State Fairgrounds, 4802 U.S. 301 N, Tampa. (813) 627-7821.

Contact Sharon Kennedy Wynne at [email protected] Follow @SharonKWn.

If you go

Florida State Fair at the Florida State Fairgrounds, 4802 U.S. 301 N, Tampa, opens Thursday and runs through Feb. 20. (813) 627-7821.

Hours: Weekdays, gates open at 10 a.m., midway opens at 1 p.m. Friday, Saturday, Sunday and President's Day (Feb. 20), gates open at 9 a.m., midway opens at 10 a.m.

Admission and armbands: You can save $2 per ticket if you buy online before the fair opens. After that, admission is $11, $6 for kids, $13 Fridays through Sundays, $7 for kids. Weekday armbands $20-$25; any day ride armbands $30-$35.

Special days and deals:

• Sunshine State Jack Russell Terrier Races on Saturday. Racing starts at noon.

• Winter National Championship Lawn Mower Races Feb. 18-19 with 11 racing classes from wild to mild.

• Ranch Rodeo: Feb. 15-16 at 3 and 7 p.m.

• Thrifty Thursday Feb. 16: Get 10 midway rides for $10.

• $5 Friday Feb. 17: Admission is $5 after 5 p.m.

• Family Fun Day Feb. 20: $20 admission for up to four people.

• Shalyah Fearing: The Hudson native placed in the top eight of Season 10 of The Voice. She performs her R&B setlist Friday at 8 p.m.

• Baking Competition: The judging will be live Feb. 18 for both kids and adults who are competing.

What to know: Florida State Fair guide and tips 02/07/17 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 7, 2017 4:46pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Seasoned cast scores an extra-base hit for St. Petersburg Opera with 'Faust'


    TAMPA — Charles Gounod's Faust sets the table early. The world-weary philosopher immortalized in a dramatic poem by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe is in his study, lamenting his state of affairs. He's willing to give away everything he has to be young again, even his soul.

    The St. Petersburg Opera Company begins its season with Faust, in a production seemingly aligned with the original intent of French composer Charles Gounod and librettists Jules Barbier and Michel Carre. [St. Petersburg Opera Company]
  2. Blake High grad Taylor Trensch lands lead role in 'Dear Evan Hansen' on Broadway


    For those who saw Taylor Trensch grow up in Tampa, his rise from promising student to star is heartwarming and entirely predictable. In January, Trensch, 28, will be moving into the title role of Dear Evan Hansen on Broadway, one of the hottest tickets in theater.

    Taylor Trensch, a 2007 Blake High graduate, will play the title role in Broadway's Dear Evan Hansen. Courtesy of Frank Trensch.
  3. A scene from "Epiphany."
  4. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for Oct. 22


    Clearwater Jazz Holiday: The Avett Brothers: The Avett Brothers, with their blend of folk, bluegrass and rock, lead the lineup. 1:30 p.m., Coachman Park, 301 Drew St., Clearwater. $16 per day, $45 reserved, $170 VIP. (727) 461-5200.

    AUSTIN, TX - MARCH 15:  (L-R)  Joe Kwon, Bob Crawford, Seth Avett, and Scott Avett of The Avett Brothers pose for a portrait at the "May It Last: A Portrait Of The Avett Brothers" Premiere - 2017 SXSW Conference and Festivals on March 15, 2017 in Austin, Texas.  (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for SXSW)
  5. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for Oct. 21


    Conor Oberst: The Bright Eyes mastermind will be joined by opener, the Felice Brothers. 8 p.m., Capitol Theatre, 405 Cleveland St., Clearwater. $30.50-$36. (727) 791-7400.

    Handout photo of Conor Oberst, performing Oct. 21 at the State Theatre in St. Petersburg. Credit: Grandstand Media