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Fair on heels of horse show

The county fair opens today after setting up over the weekend, which saw some drizzle and an annual horse show.

The weeklong celebration of small-town Americana, the county fair, kicks off today with a midway full of whirring rides, local projects such as livestock and quilts and some good food.

The fair comes on the heels of the weekend's 10th annual Hospice of Citrus County Horse Show, in which about 90 exhibitors participated Saturday at the Pine Ridge Equestrian Center in Beverly Hills. Proceeds from the show benefit Hospice of Citrus County.

The event was coordinated this year for the last time by Marje Van Tassell and her husband, Lenny. The show was dedicated to their friend Grace Nieman, who has cancer.

Riders dressed in medieval costumes performed riding maneuvers, and others competed in English and Western saddle competition and speed events such as flag racing. Hay rides and pony rides were other activities.

Despite the occasional drizzle over the weekend, the horse show went on and crews kept on schedule for the fair's opening.

"Oh, the rain wasn't all that bad and we needed it," said fair manager Jean Grant. "We can handle rain and some wind; it's just lightning that gives us concern and there wasn't any," she said.

This is the first time in many years that Fair Week has coincided with the public schools' spring break vacation, Grant said.

"We're hoping it's going to be a big benefit for us and the parents," she said.

Because fair planners knew about 18 months ago that the fair and school break would coincide, Grant said the fair is geared heavily toward family entertainment.

Among the features is Friday's "School Day," where students are admitted free until 5 p.m., and for $4 after 5 p.m. Also, an armband pass that allows unlimited admission to the midway rides from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. is $14.

The county parks and recreation department will sponsor children's games near the race track from 10:30 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. The St. Petersburg Times is sponsoring the Wheel of Fortune game from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Fair manager Jean Grant said this year will be the only time for many years that the fair and spring break will coincide.

Other youth activities include a rock concert at 4 p.m. Saturday with three local bands, Low Arrow, NASCENT and Abberation, inside the auditorium.

Grant said this year will be the only time for many years that the fair and spring break will coincide.

"It's an experiment; we're going back to the regular schedule. But this does give families a chance to stay in town and have something to do instead of going away on a vacation," she said.

SPEAR THE RING: Will Anderson, 10, and his horse Jetstar "spear the ring" from a center ring holder inside the riding arena Saturday. The boy answered a challenge from the Silk and Sable LLC for any riders at the show to spear a ring with a lance during their performance at the Pine Ridge Equestrian Center in Beverly Hills. He became an honorary member of the drill team after showing his riding skill.

GIANT WHEEL: The Giant Wheel glimmers in the morning sun Saturday. Today those seats will be filled by thrill-seekers at the Citrus County Fair at the fairgrounds in Inverness. The fair opens at 5 p.m. with a special half-price general admission $2 for 12 and older, $1 for ages 6 to 11, free under 5.

HOSPICE OF CITRUS COUNTY HORSE SHOW: Aby Carlin, left, and Jackie Powell lead the mounted drill team, the Silk and Sable LLC. Dressed in medieval costumes, the team performed riding maneuvers Saturday. There were also about 90 exhibitors participating in the horse show. The show featured English and Western saddle competition and speed events such as flag racing.

HORSE PLAY: Renee Reavis, 14, and her horse Kansas indulge in a little "horse play" after participating Saturday in the Western and English Pleasure Riding competition. The 10th annual horse show was at the Pine Ridge Equestrian Center in Beverly Hills.

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