2019 Florida State Fair returns to Tampa

Lady Houdini will free herself from a tank of water, a racing pig named Kim Kardashi-ham will vie for a gold medal and visitors will be able to sample bizarre food from Feb. 7 through Feb. 18 at the Florida State Fairgrounds.
Published January 31
Updated February 7

TAMPA — Lady Houdini boasts more water tank escapes than the late, great Harry Houdini, and she’ll be shackled and trapped in her “water torture cell’’ to the suspenseful delight of corndog-munching guests at the Florida State Fair, which opens Feb. 7 at the Florida State Fairgrounds.

Lady Houdini, also known as Kristen Johnson, has made more than 2,300 escape attempts. Spectators are invited to see if the trend continues.

Too tense? Then how about the All-Star Stunt Dogs Splash? The act features cute pooches walking on their front legs, jumping rope, doing back flips, doing front-paw stands on their trainers’ hands and leaping into water after flying disks. Or check out a returning favorite, the Hollywood Racing Pigs. Pig stars Kim Kardashi-ham and Notorious PIG will vie for a gold medal.

You need energy to get you through all that entertainment, and the fair provides sustenance aplenty. Crazy sustenance aplenty, in fact.

Have a “buffaloaded’’ mac and cheese quesadilla, stuffed with shredded buffalo chicken and queso and macaroni, topped with bacon and crushed up Doritos. You don’t often hear red beans, rice and funnel cake mentioned in one sentence, but just such a concoction will be available at the fair. Red beans and rice are mixed in the batter and the funnel cake is fried golden brown. Smoked sausage, onions, peppers and beans are piled on top.

Other selections include a jalapeno popper grilled cheese sandwich, a rainbow grilled cheese sandwich with different-colored dyed cheese or a black cherry burger.

First held in Tampa in 1904, the Florida State Fair has become one of the state’s most popular events, attracting more than 500,000 people in recent years during its 12-day run, according to fair officials, who add that the fair has the largest midway in the United States, along with a robust agricultural program, a circus, interactive animal exhibits and new attractions each year.

“We’re hoping for a little more this year,’’ said fair spokeswoman Krystin Olinski. Fair promoters also hope for a run of great weather, like they had last year. But even on rainy, blustery days, Olinski noted, there are plenty of indoor acts and exhibits to keep crowds entertained.

Gate admission to the fair, which runs through Feb. 18, is $11 for adults; $6 for children 6 to 11; and free for children 5 and under. Advance tickets and amusement ride armbands are available at participating Publix locations through February 6 and online at floridastatefair.com. Advance ticket prices are $9 for adult admission, $5 for a child and $7 for seniors. Weekday Ride Armbands are $20 and Any Day Ride Armbands are $30. Advance ticket sales for the $79 Mega Pass, which provides unlimited admission and rides throughout the entirety of the Fair, and the Senior Five-Day Pass will only be available through www.FloridaStateFair.com or at the Box Office.

Fair promotion days include Heroes Day, Feb. 7, when military and emergency responders receive free admission for themselves and up to three guests with their official ID; $2 Tuesday After 2 P.M., Feb. 12, offering $2 admission, $2 midway rides and $2 on selected food items and games; $5 Admission After 5 P.M., Feb. 15, when guest get in the fair for $5; Fair Cares for the Hungry Day, Feb. 18, sponsored by Publix and Feeding Tampa Bay, when guests pay $5 admission with the donation of two or more non-perishable food items from Publix.

Also making an appearance will be the Budweiser Clydesdales, Tyzen the Comedy Hypnotist and daredevil Bello Nock, whose long orange flat top gives him a forever frightened look. He’ll be shot out of a cannon over the whirling blades of a helicopter.

Visitors can see hundreds of prize-worthy farm animals in the livestock barns and show arenas. In the Moo-ternity Ward, where spectators watch a calf being born, the suspense can be as great as seeing Lady Houdini struggle to get free.

The fairgrounds are located at the intersection of Interstate 4 and U.S. 301. For more information, including show times for the varied performers — human and animals — go to www.floridastatefair.com.