The deep-fried Twinkies and funnel cakes of the Florida State Fair will get cooking after all. After canceling its original February start date, organizers announced that the Tampa-based fair will be open April 22-May 2.
Tampa’s long-time tradition of holding the first state fair of the year was almost dashed when the coronavirus pandemic forced organizers to cancel its original start date of Feb. 11. The Miami-Dade County Fair and Exposition will be first big one in Florida this year by starting March 18, but that’s a regional county fair, though it is a big one. Tampa will still have the first state fair in the country this year, a fair spokeswoman said.
The Florida State Fair will provide sanitation stations inside the event, require masks and rework its indoor floor plans in an effort to allow more distancing, said an announcement from the Florida State Fair Authority.
“Like other fairs and venues across the country that have safely reopened, we are utilizing best practices and safety guidelines that have proven to be successful,” said Cheryl Flood, executive director of the Florida State Fair.
The mostly outdoor event “offers hundreds of acres that will allow guests to social distance,” the announcement said.
Those who purchased fair tickets for February dates will be given the option to transfer tickets for the rescheduled dates. Tickets will be on sale beginning Monday on the fair’s website at floridastatefair.com.
The 2020 fair was held just before most of the state shut down in mid-March. Final attendance was 455,851, a decline from 2019 but still a strong fair with several record-setting days, according to carnivalwarehouse.com, an industry tracking site. Attendance averaged 18,000 people a day last year with a vast, 95-ride midway that included three roller coasters and five Ferris wheels.
Normally being the first fair of the year, the Florida State Fair is usually first to sell new, over-the-top fair foods. Last year that included a peanut butter ramen burger, cheesy Sriracha funnel cake bites and chocolate jalapeno ice cream.
While the Tampa fair was the first to open, it was also one of the last in 2020, as summer and fall festivals across the country were canceled.
“Like so many other businesses, our industry is willing to go the extra mile to keep our guests safe and has demonstrated the ability to do it. In fact, there have been no outbreaks tied to fairs and outdoor events this year yet,” wrote Ron Weber, editor of CarnivalWarehouse.com.
The Florida State Fair was first held in Tampa in 1904, and has become one of the largest events in the state, typically attracting more than 400,000 people during its 12-day run for which it boasts the largest midway in the U.S.